Dangers on the Farm
Farming is consistently ranked in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the US. Every day, about 100 agriculture workers are injured, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The industry also ranks high in mortalities with 20.4 work-related deaths for every 100,000 farmworkers in 2017. With June, July and August being traditionally peak months for crop production and harvesting, now is the time for farmers to review and update safety procedures.
Working alone, on farm equipment or at other jobs, contributes to the severity of the injury and death statistics. With potentially fewer workers available this season due to immigration suspension stemming from concerns over the spread of COVID-19, workers are likely to be even more spread out than in the past. Solitary workers often cannot get immediate help when injured or trapped. But there are steps farmers can take to help prevent injuries and be more responsive in an incident.
First, ensure any solo worker is well trained and understands how to operate equipment. Have first-aid kits and emergency supplies nearby. Farmers or employees working alone should be healthy before beginning any task and not wear loose clothing, which could get caught and result in injury.
Perform a risk assessment of the work area. Identify any hazards, including any chemicals or other hazardous materials. Talk to your workers, and make sure they understand the risks and how to avoid injury.
Make sure all workers are trained in CPR and first aid, know how to call 911, and have contact information in case of an emergency. Farmers should keep an emergency information box with a map of the farm, emergency contacts and phone numbers, and a list of all chemicals and equipment on the farm.
Know the whereabouts of and have check-in procedures for solo farmworkers. Use a Work Alone Checklist for each employee or have a place where workers can note their location, as well as check-in and cut-off times. Require solo workers to check in every two hours and follow up if they do not. Equip your workers with a personal monitoring device, two-way radio, or cellphone for communication.
Transportation-related accidents, mostly from tractor overturns, are a leading cause of death on farms. To improve injury response times, require check-ins prior to and after dismounting a tractor or other farm equipment.
All tractors should have a rollover protective structure and a seatbelt. Newer tractors are equipped with these and older ones can be retrofit. Do not allow extra passengers, who could easily fall off and be injured or killed. Never exit a running tractor — make sure it’s in park or turned off.
The coronavirus pandemic has added extra safety concerns for farms. Make sure you have enough restrooms and spaces for workers to wash hands. Consider having employees wear personal protective equipment. Dust masks, face shields, and gloves already used for safety will suffice.
Despite the best preparation and protocol, accidents happen. The first step following an accident is to get medical attention for the injured person. You may need to first administer CPR or first aid. Then get the injured farmworker to a doctor’s office or hospital, or call for emergency medical assistance.
Once your employee is safe and has received care, investigate the situation. Create a written accident record that can be shared with your insurance company. Then report the incident following state rules. Submit a claim to your insurance company, and then set a re-entry plan for when the worker can safely return to work.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an agriculture accident, you may be eligible for compensation. At Hudson King, our team of personal injury attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to pursue the best possible results in your case. Contact us today at 229-515-8585 for a free case consultation.
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