Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured and hundreds more die in farming accidents. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation. Be aware of the hazards and safety practices on a farm, especially as a young worker.
- Tractors are involved in a high proportion of farm fatalities and injuries.
- Struck-by – Farm machinery can cause accidents, but you can also get hit by livestock.
- Chemicals and pesticides can enter your body in many ways, including inhalation, contact with skin and clothes, and accidental ingestion (such as eating with unwashed hands).
- Organic dust comes from hay, grain, fuel chips, straw and livestock. It includes molds, pollens, bacteria, pesticides, chemicals and feed, bedding and animal particles.
- Overexertion – Prolonged reaching, bending and lifting can lead to muscle aches, strains and sprains.
- Confined Spaces – You are at risk of being overcome by gases when entering sites without proper ventilation, such as a manure pit, silo or grain bin. Workers entering a grain bin being emptied are also at risk of being crushed or suffocated by flowing grain.
- Electrocution is one of the most overlooked hazards of farm work. The most common cause of electrocutions are portable grain augers, oversized wagons, large combines and other tall equipment that comes into contact with overhead power lines.
- Falls are the most common accidents in agriculture. Falls of just 12 feet can kill you. Many occur because of slips and trips that can be avoided by wearing proper shoes.
Safe work practices include the following:
- If you are under age 16, you cannot: operate a tractor and certain types of machinery; handle certain classes of chemicals; work inside a fruit, forage or grain storage structure; work in a manure pit; work on a ladder or scaffold over 20 feet high; and/or work in a yard or stall with a bull, boar or stud horse.
- Receive proper training before operating any machinery.
- Ensure all loose clothing or long hair has been secured to prevent entanglement in machinery.
- Use safe practices when hitching and unhitching wagons.
- Use care and common sense when working with animals. Never try to hurry an angry or aggressive animal.
- Wash your hands before using the bathroom, applying cosmetics or eating.
- Wear any provided personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a NIOSH-approved N95 air-purifying disposable particulate respirator, especially when working with grains or silage in enclosed areas that may contain dust.
- Maintain good back posture while working.
- Take frequent stretch breaks to avoid muscle strain.
- Never enter a confined space without a respirator before confirming the space has sufficient oxygen, and always have at least one person with you.
- Watch out for overhead electrical lines. Treat them as though they are bare.
- Wear shoes and boots with slip-resistant soles and heels.