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Cultivating the Seeds of Safety: National Farm Safety and Health Week Sept. 16-22

by | September 14, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: September 11, 2018 at 3:42 pm

By Marion Barnes
Senior County Extension Agent, Clemson University

Those involved in the agricultural industry know the vital role our nation’s farmers and ranchers play in our economy and society today. However, few may realize that agriculture ranks high among the most hazardous industries in this country. For the past 40 years, agriculture has been ranked in the top three most dangerous occupations by the National Safety Council.
Since 1944, the third week in September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week in the United States. National Farm Safety and Health Week aims to raise awareness of farm safety issues in rural communities across our nation. Farm Safety Week is held at different times of the year in many countries around the world. National Farm Safety and Health Week is recognized in the fall of the year in the U.S., most likely to draw attention to harvest time safety issues. Long hours and the challenges of getting crops harvested before winter sets in makes fall harvest season one of most dangerous times of the year for our farmers. Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is held in the spring of the year, mid-March, prior to the planting season in that country. No matter what the season, farm safety should be a priority on every farm and ranch.
This year’s theme, “Cultivating the Seeds of Safety” is an appropriate theme that encourages farmers and ranchers to “cultivate seeds” or take steps to improve safety for themselves, their families and their employees on their farming operations. What “seeds of safety” can you cultivate on your farm this year?
One of the most important resources any farming operation has is you, the farmer. Who will get the crops planted and harvested or tend to the livestock if you are involved in a farm accident or have a health related issues? Every day, farmers are exposed to loud noises working around machinery or livestock and spend many hours laboring in the hot sun. Some farmers feel they are “too busy” to go to the doctor on a regular basis. Make time for an annual health care checkup such as a hearing test, eye exam or skin cancer screening or other preventive medical care. Preventive care is a whole lot “cheaper” than curative care in the long run.
Work place emergencies can happen at any time. To be prudent, we should prepare for them. Farmers and their employees should know first aid measures and how to correctly respond in an emergency. Schedule first aid training or CPR training for you, your family members and your employees.
Tractors, ATVs, farm machinery, overhead powerlines, ladders, confined spaces and hazardous chemicals are just a few things most farms have in common that can lead to accidents. Identifying these and other hazards on your operation can reduce the chance of injury and accidents. Well-maintained equipment helps to eliminate downtime as well as make for a safer work place. Replacing worn or missing shielding on equipment can decrease chances accidents.
While searching the internet for topics for a farm safety newsletter, I came across a news release relating the details of a young man recently gored to death by bulls on the family farm in South Carolina. This sad, tragic incident underscores the need to be alert when working around cattle, especially bulls. By nature bulls are unpredictable and, even though they may appear gentle, can become aggressive. My father always taught me to “never turn your back on a bull.” Sound advice, and an “example of cultivating the seeds of safety.”
Another important step that can reduce or eliminate hazards on the farm is setting a good example for employees and family members. If you take the time to practice farm safety while going about your everyday duties on the farm, others will observe the correct and safe way to complete the task. The slogan, “lead by example,” is especially important if you have young children growing up on the farm or new, less experienced employees.
In conclusion, “cultivating the seeds of safety” is a very appropriate theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week. However, unless we are willing to make farm safety a priority and educate our employees and family members about safety practices and eliminate hazards on our farms, it’s just another “catchy” slogan!

(Marion Barnes can be reached at

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