National Farm Safety and Health Week was recently recognized Sept. 15 to 21 and it comes at time when there is no shortage of rural activities. School and related activities are in full swing and on top of that, fall starts Sept. 23.

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, based in Peosta, Iowa, has taken a proactive approach to safety with this year’s theme, “Shift Farm Safety into High Gear.” All of us need to pay attention to farm health and issues related to the topic.

The NECAS in its release noted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 581 fatalities, which equals 23 deaths per 100,000 workers. Those sobering statistics do not take into account the survivors of farm-related accidents that damage eyesight, fingers, arms or legs.

Some fatal and non-fatal accidents were simply the result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, many of these stories are all too familiar: lack of training and oversight, arcing the electrical system to start a tractor, leaving a piece of machinery running while trying to work on it, not properly blocking a tire, removing a guard off a PTO shaft, or trying to adjust a belt or chain on a combine or baler while in a hurry.

At the county and state levels, organizations such as Extension services offer tractor safety certification courses in the spring for youth. They have grown to include more topics beyond basic operator safety as they recognize that putting an inexperienced farmhand on a piece of equipment or helping to fill nurse tanks can turn deadly.

Farmers and ranchers pride themselves on their no-nonsense, common sense approach to solving problems. We concur. However, accidents rarely occur under ideal situations. They occur as a result of long hours and stress-related fatigue. Those conditions will never go away and are an occupational hazard that can be mitigated by applying a no-nonsense, common sense tenacity to safety.

Even in this busiest of seasons, taking a few minutes after each meal to review safety and talk about potential hazards, particularly to younger family members, could save a life. 

One of themes this year addresses suicide and depression, which is never an easy topic, and yet is one that also impacts not only the safety of the individual but his or her family. Suicide and depression result from any number of factors. Taking time to check on neighbors, especially those who may be facing family health issues or trying economic times, even if it means stopping harvest activities on a busy day to check on them, might make the difference between life and death.

Each year since 1944, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week, according to the NECAS, which is is the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council and has been serving families and businesses in agriculture since 1997. Additional information is available at the NECAS’ website at www.necasag.org.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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