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. Agriculture is different from many industries in that it can present hazards to people not actively involved in the industry, such as family members living on the farm and visitors, in addition to workers. Additionally, hazards may exist for emergency medical services personnel and other healthcare professionals as they provide assistance and care to victims of farm accidents.
Health risks for farmers and farmworkers include:
- Exposure to farm chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilisers, as well as toxic gases which may be produced from common farm practices like manure decomposition and silo crop storage
- Exposure to high levels of dust, which can contain mold, bacteria, and animal droppings, among other things
- Falls from ladders, farm equipment, grain bins, or other heights
- Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can result in skin cancer
- Joint and ligament injuries, which can result in arthritic conditions affecting mobility
- Exposure to loud noises and sounds from machinery and equipment which can result in hearing loss
- Stress from environmental factors, such as droughts, floods, wildfires, pests, and diseases affecting crops and livestock, as well as from working long hours, financial concerns, and feelings of isolation and frustration
- Risk of suffocation in a grain bin if a person is engulfed by the grain
- Risk of heatstroke, frostbite, or hypothermia from working outside in extreme weather conditions
- Risk of injury from operating farm equipment and motorized vehicles
- Risk of injury from working with livestock
- Risk of electrocution to persons operating large equipment that can contact overhead power lines
General Tips for a Safe Working Environment:
- For an effective farm or ranch safety program, first perform a safety status assessment.
- Make safety everyone's concern including family, employees, visitors, and yourself.
- Be aware of what you are doing and your surroundings. The highest percentage of injuries happen during routine, 'every day' chores.
- Ask for help if a task might be more than you can handle alone.
- Take short rest breaks, so you don't overexert yourself.
- Eat a well balanced diet and get plenty of sleep.
- Stay away from equipment if you are angry. Wait a little while until you cool down.
- Train new equipment operators before letting them work on their own.
- Read the operator's manuals for all equipment.
- Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for 'every day' chores and for specific jobs. Protective footwear, that also provides ankle support, and close fitting clothing are important for 'every day' work. (Specific job related PPE is discussed in the following modules
Personal Protective Equipment:
- Training- It is the responsibility of supervisors to provide training to their employees on identifying when the selected personal protective equipment is necessary, on how to use the equipment, and on proper care and maintenance of it.
- Apparel- The purpose of protective apparel is to provide protection for the body from chemical exposure, temperature extremes, and injury from sharp objects. Lab coats, chemical resistant aprons, and disposable tyvek suits are examples of protective apparel. Proper selection should be based on intended use.
- Foot Protection- Appropriate footwear that is effective in preventing or limiting injury shall be worn where employees are exposed to conditions which may cause foot injuries. As a general rule, low-heeled, closed-toe shoes shall be worn in all laboratory operations where there is a likelihood of exposure to spilled chemicals.
- Eye Protection- Eye injuries can translate into pain, loss of time, money and even your eyesight. Even a slight loss or impairment of your vision is a tremendous price to pay for a moment of carelessness. It is a dreadful reminder of what taking a risk can mean. Wear proper eye protection where eye protection hazards are apparent and use common sense. Become acquainted with proper first aid treatment for eye injuries and seek medical attention if there is an eye injury.
- Helmets- Employees working in areas where there is possible danger of head injury from impact, falling or flying objects, or electrical shock and burns must wear protective helmets. The typical “hard hat” is the protective helmet of choice in most situations. Hard hats for short-term use can be obtained from the Facilities Services Tool Room.
- Respirators- The ability of respiratory protective equipment to provide adequate protection is based on proper selection and fit and on training in the use of the respirator. Therefore, respirators which are intended for protection against harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapours must not be obtained or worn by employees without the approval of EH&S and in accordance with the Respiratory Protective Equipment Safety Program.
PPE not only helps protect people but also improves productivity. Farmers and ranchers can benefit from using the appropriate protective equipment for themselves, family members, and workers when the job and its potential hazards call for it. Protective equipment must be carefully selected. Test fit the protective equipment to be sure of a proper and comfortable fit.