SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)–Working in production agriculture comes with its dangers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.
They state “Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries; and farming is one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.”
In 2017, they reported that 416 farmer and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 20.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
According to a report from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, every three days, a child dies from an agriculture-related incident, 25% of those involving machinery. Tractors were the leading source of those fatalities, followed by ATVs.
The report stated every day, about 33 children are injured from agriculture-related causes.
“Agriculture is inherently a business with large equipment,” said Mark Salvador, who works for Corteva AgriScience and is the treasurer of the Minnehaha County Farm Bureau.
Salvador said some of the leading dangers of farming are not being able to see everything around you all the time and if the weather is good, the farmers are out in the field, and oftentimes find themselves working under fatigue.
“It is easy to let your guard down if you’re not paying 100% attention all the time,” Salvador said.
Heidi Carroll, SDSU Extension Livestock Stewardship Field Specialist & Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator, said that machinery, motor vehicles, ATVs or UTVs and potentially drowning depending on the type of operation, are all dangers producers face. She said a big concern is defiantly the large animals that they may be working with as well.
Carroll said the leading causes of fatalities include the machinery, motor vehicles and drowning.
Some of the accidents on the farm, Salvador said, can include getting run over by a large piece of equipment, collisions, the dangers that come with large, slow moving, vehicles traveling on the highways and dirt roads, as well as the dangers brought on by livestock.
With livestock, you have to be gentle, be slow, be seen and be deliberate, Salvador said.
Carroll said that planting and harvest seasons are definitely the most dangerous seasons for some producers with a lot of machinery and livestock movement, however, it is important to remember that all operations are different. A lot of farms may not have seasonal risks, she said, for example, a dairy operation will have machinery moving during every season.
“I don’t know if anything would be more specific to South Dakota as it would just be an inherent danger around agriculture, generally,” Salvador said. “Farmers often engage in a lot of the same practices, they all work long hours, they are all really hard working. I do know that we have a lot of livestock here in the state; we have a lot of operations that have large grain storage facilities and grain driers, so if we ever have grain quality issues, you know that can bring about another set of dangers.”
Salvador said that they recommend training for all farm workers to understand the dangers and correct safety practices to use on their operations. He also said to make sure producers have first aid kits and emergency phone numbers in their phone.
To prevent fatalities, it is important to make every employee aware of that risk existing, Carroll said.
“When we talk about machinery, know what machinery is there, who is going to be driving it and what routes might that machinery be taken,” Carroll said.
“We encourage people to take the time and look at farm safety on the internet, there are trainings available out there,” Salvador said.
Carroll encourages producers to reach out to an extension professional if they need to have employee training on safety throughout their operations. She also said online resources, such as those from the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center are also good to utilize. Extension also works with first responders, Carroll said, to educate them on the risks and accidents producers might face.
“Don’t assume somebody knows that something is a risk,” Carroll said.
People on the operation can come from a variety of backgrounds, so Carroll encourages people to not assume someone knows something is a risk, like an animal kicking or the direction a tractor is going to go. She said to take the time when working with employees and family members to verbalize those risks.
Salvador also said, periodically, local volunteer fire departments put together training seminars, as well as sometimes companies will go out and visit with farmers about farm safety.
When working alone, it is important to tell the team members where you are going, what you are doing and give them a good idea of when you will be back, Salvador said. He also encourages producers to keep a cell phone on them.
As a member of the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation in Minnehaha County, Salvador said they have embraced farm safety as a priority and they take time to talk about it in their county meetings. He said they took it a step further and began producing radio advertisements that talk about farm safety, which air in the spring and the fall because they are the busiest times on an operation.
They have been producing these ads for two years now, Salvador said, and they have seen a positive response. He said traveling in his line of work, he meets with a lot of producers and he feels good when he talks with one of them who just heard one of the ads.
Along with engaging with producers, Salvador said they reach out to the 4-H and Future Farmers of America groups as well to teach them about safety protocols to use on their operations.
Children’s safety is definitely a concern on the farm.
Salvador said they were personally affected when one of their good friends and teammate lost their 7-year-old son to a farming accident four years ago.
“I’ll tell you what, if you have ever had to go to a seven year old’s funeral and be with the family through something like that, that changes you,” Salvador said.
Salvador said they are very deliberate about making sure young people are safe and their parents take the time to make sure that their children are safe on the farm.
The Boomsma family took the time to write a farm safety book after the accident, and that is being shared in classrooms and throughout the community, Salvador said.
Some of the biggest dangers for kids on the farm include grain bins, operating ATV’s and working with livestock, Salvador said. Some other dangers, he said, include electricity and PTO shafts.
“As we enter this busy spring season on the farm, we know that growers are anxious to get going, it’s an exciting time in agriculture, but there’s a lot of long hours in front of us,” Salvador said. “So I just encourage everyone to be safe about what you are doing and make sure you go home at the end of your day to your loved ones just as safe as you left the house in the morning.”