Nashville, TN – Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and non-fatal injuries while on the job. In fact, Tennessee is among the top six states for deaths due to tractor accidents in agricultural work, according to data from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
During National Farm Safety and Health Week this September, the Department of Health joins the Department of Agriculture in raising awareness of the risks of farming accidents and ways to save lives through prevention.“Farm injuries are especially prevalent during harvest season as farmers are working long hours and dealing with the additional stress of unpredictable weather and equipment problems,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “We appreciate the opportunity to join with the Tennessee Department of Health in promoting safe and healthy practices on our farms and the rural roadways of Tennessee.”
The occupational fatality rate for farmers is 700 percent higher than other U.S. industries, including mining. During 2009-2012, an average of 17 fatalities from agricultural tractor accidents was reported in Tennessee every year. Engineering advancements made to tractors and other farm equipment have helped reduce injuries and deaths – but only when they are used properly.
Rollover Protection Structures, or ROPS, are roll bars or cages designed for agricultural tractors and are nearly 100 percent effective in preventing death and serious injury in the case of a rollover.
Tractors built after 1986 have ROPS included as standard equipment, but many tractors on farms today, especially smaller farms, are older and were sold without ROPS. Older tractors can be retrofitted with ROPS.
“The satisfaction of farm and yard work can be negated quickly by an accident or injury,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “This is personal to me, having lost two friends to tractor accidents. In their memories, I always wear my seatbelt and use my rollover protection structure on this wonderful but very dangerous machinery.”
When working with farm equipment, safety experts suggest some basic common sense practices:
- Always wear tight fighting, protective clothing and safety glasses.
- Be sure that proper equipment guards are in place around moving parts.
- Use or retrofit tractors with rollover protective structures (ROPS) and use seat belts.
- Use extreme caution on inclined surfaces, which is the most common cause of rollovers.
- Turn off the engine, engage the parking brake and lower hydraulic accessories when not in operation.
- Do not allow extra riders on equipment.
- Always be aware of your surroundings for people, obstacles or uneven ground.
- Prepare for emergencies by keeping a first-aid kit and learning life-saving techniques.
For more information and resources on farm safety and health, contact Tim Prather, University of Tennessee Extension farm safety specialist at 865.974.7266 or visit the website.
Each year since 1944, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week. The theme for 2014 is Safety Counts: Protecting What Matters. Learn more at www.necasag.org