Agriculture safety means continuous focus on doing the right thing

By Bruce Loughner, CSP, Technical Safety Resource Consultant

The annual Farm Science Review serves as a reminder to protect farm workers from hazards that may lead to injury or death. The event, sponsored by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science, focuses on education in the agricultural industry.

Whether you plan to attend Farm Science Review this week or want to brush up on agricultural safety from home, we’ve put together some resources to help.

Farm hazards and controls

Overexertion is the leading accident type on most types of farms. Strains and sprains can result in serious injuries. These are typically caused by lifting, pulling, pushing, and carrying activities. To avoid overexertion:

  • Take frequent breaks during periods of heavy exertion.
  • Adjust work to waist to shoulder level.
  • Consider heat stress mitigation including rest periods.
  • Use specialized mechanical lifting equipment.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for using equipment.
  • Simplify or combine processes to reduce the amount of handling and repositioning.
  • Make sure you have enough working space to allow for good body positioning. Use portable positioning blocks, support surfaces, pry bars, levers, clamps, vises, chains, slings, rollers, etc. to minimize manual force.
  • Use slings, handholds, or other means of ensuring good grip and control.
  • Always get help when lifting or repositioning heavy items.

Working with machinery can also lead to potential hazards. For example, hearing loss may result from exposure to loud farm equipment. Also, entanglement, or getting caught in a machine, may lead to severe injury or death. To prevent these hazards:

  • Use hearing protection such as ear plugs or muffs to prevent hearing loss.
  • Maintain equipment according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Perform a pre-operational service check before operating machinery and correct any problems before starting. Always read and follow all instructions in the operator’s manuals.
  • Ensure appropriate training before operating. 
  • Use guarding supplied by the manufacturer.  
  • Always use the rollover protective system with tractors and mowers. Tractor rollover is another leading cause of death on farms.
  • Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, aprons, and helmets. Wear proper clothing for the task such as long pants, work boots, gloves, and long sleeves. Do not wear items that could become entangled in moving machine parts such as jewelry, drawstrings, ties, or loose clothing.
  • Tie back or otherwise secure loose hair but be aware that even short or tied-back hair may become entangled in moving equipment.

In addition to these tips, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) recommends creating a culture of safety within your organization. Simple actions, like starting every meeting with a short safety topic, can help to keep everyone’s mind on safety.

DSH resources

In July 2021, BWC and the Ohio On-Site Consultation Program joined an alliance with the Ohio Agribusiness Association and the four Ohio area offices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to raise awareness and develop safety education and training specific to the Ohio agribusiness industry. Stay tuned for future safety education and training specific to the Ohio agribusiness industry.

If you have questions on improving safety, reducing risk factors, or other occupational safety and health topics, BWC is here to help. Reach out to one of our BWC safety consultants online for assistance or call 1-800-644-6292. Don’t forget to take advantage of our other safety services as well. DSH offers a wide range of services for all industries at no additional cost to employers, including safety education and training and the BWC safety and video library.

We also have additional resources available online for farmers:

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