The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Obama proclaims farm safety week as ag remains most dangerous sector

President Barack Obama has proclaimed this week National Farm Safety and Health Week.

“Farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers form the cornerstones of some of America's most essential economic sectors,” Obama said in the proclamation released Friday. “Their products feed, clothe, and fuel our nation. Their way of life — handed down from generation to generation — is central to the American story.”

But he added, “For many agricultural workers, the risk of injury and illness is a daily reality. They face multiple challenges, including entering hazardous grain storage bins, handling livestock and chemicals, and transporting large machinery on our Nation’s rural roadways. I encourage agricultural producers and their families and communities to participate in comprehensive farm safety and health programs, take precautions, and prepare themselves for emergencies. I urge all Americans to respect farming and ranching families by driving rural roadways with care, and I ask communities to remember agricultural workers' needs in setting up health facilities and emergency response programs.”

The International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health noted last week that the rate of fatalities in agriculture continues to decline, but still remains the highest of any industry sector, according to preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting fatalities decreased 16 percent to 475 in 2012 from 566 in 2011, ISASH said. This follows a 9 percent drop in agriculture fatalities in 2011.

Fatal injuries in the crop production, animal production, forestry and logging, and fishing sectors were all lower in 2012. Despite the declines in fatal work injuries in this sector over the last two years, agriculture recorded the highest fatal injury rate of any industry sector at 21.2 fatal injuries per 100,000 FTE workers in 2012.

“These figures are especially relevant during harvest season, as farmers are putting in long hours under the stress of weather delays, equipment breakdowns, and high operating costs,” said ISASH President Chris Shivers of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, noted in a statement Monday that fall is one of the busiest seasons and a time to pay attention to safety.

“As fall harvest hits, it’s good for Iowans to have a bit more patience behind the wheel when sharing the road with farm traffic,” Grassley said.” It’s the perfect time to emphasize to new drivers that the fluorescent orange emblem on the rear of a vehicle means to slow down. And, it never hurts to make a mental note to appreciate the grain making its way to market is not only a farm family’s livelihood. It’s helping to fuel, clothe and feed America, all the while invigorating the local economy.”

Grassley noted that Farm Safety For Just Kids, a national farm safety organization based in Iowa, advises farmers to secure the slow-moving vehicle emblem on their farm equipment.

“Be sure it’s clean and visible. Be mindful of flowing grain suffocation hazards while unloading in bins and wagons. Take advantage of rollover protection, especially for older tractors. Staying alert and getting enough sleep is perhaps the cheapest advice, but also the hardest to follow during the harvest season. It’s tempting to take short cuts or avoid a safety precaution when time seems more important. Remember a golden rule of farming: It’s better to be safe than sorry. Taking common sense precautions will help yield a safe, bountiful harvest.”