Farm Safety

Source: Bogdan Mircea Hoda - 123RF

According to OSHA, agriculture ranks highly among the most dangerous industries. Between 2003 and 2011, 5,816 agricultural workers died from work-related injuries in the U.S. In 2011, the fatality rate for agricultural workers was 7 times higher than the rate for all workers in private industry, almost 25 deaths per 100,000 workers compared to 3.5 in private industry. Every day, more than 240 agricultural workers suffer a serious lost-work-time injury, 5 percent of which result in a permanent impairment; and the injury rate for agricultural workers is over 40 percent higher than the rate for all other workers.

The leading cause of death of farmworkers over the last two decades has been tractor overturns. Despite the fact that such deaths can be effectively prevented by the use of rollover protective structures, only 59% of tractors used on farms in the U.S. were equipped with these devices as late as 2006.

Because farming involves such a diverse set of activities and operations, farm workers are exposed to a wide range of hazards. They are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Workers in orchards are exposed to hazards such falling objects, falls, and ladder-related injuries. Grain handling facilities such as elevators and mills that receive, handle, store, process, and ship bulk raw agricultural commodities are high hazards workplaces at which workers can be exposed to fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation, suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls from heights, and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment.

Proper training, use, and maintenance of the proper equipment, and use of the right protection are, of course, key in preventing injuries from these diverse hazards.

Agricultural operations are covered by several OSHA Safety and Health standards, including Agriculture (29 CFR 1928), General Industry (29 CFR 1910), and the General Duty Clause. You can learn about these standards on the OSHA website.