June is National Safety Month. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the United States. June is the perfect time for farm families to search the home and farm for safety hazards. Emphasis must be placed on correcting safety hazards right away. Some safety hazards can’t be completely eliminated. In these cases, engaging in safety behaviors can reduce risks.
The majority of injuries and deaths on the farm involve machinery such as tractors. Using proper personal protective equipment includes use of hats/helmets, face shields, safety goggles and gloves, boots and other protective equipment can minimize injuries. You should follow all manufacturer instructions and recommendations, adhere to maintenance schedules, and avoid using equipment until repairs have been completed. Install approved guards and protective equipment such as roll over protective structures to tractors and other machinery as needed. Consider obtaining a portable document format file (PDF) of the operator’s manual for all equipment and machinery. Don’t forget the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for all chemicals kept in the home and on the farm. Save this information to a flash drive and the hard drive of your computer. Keep hard copies in a designated location. Save the nearest emergency numbers such as 911 and Poison Control number on your home and cell phones.
Children under the age of 15 and adults over the age of 65 have the greatest risk for injury. Children should be given age appropriate tasks, suitable to their mental and physical abilities. Children should not be allowed access to hazardous areas, and dangerous areas should be fenced off. The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) is a good resource for keeping children safe on the farm.
Safety in the home requires inspection of exterior entrances for sturdy handrails, and windows and doors that open, close and lock easily. Ensure adequate lighting for all rooms of the home including the basement, attic, stairwells (top and bottom), driveway, walkways and porch. Remove or repair possible trip hazards such as holes or uneven joints on walkways, elevated thresholds, electrical cords, and clutter. Trim bushes, shrubs and low hanging branches. Add non-slip finishes or strips to walkways, steps, tubs and shower stalls. In the bathroom, install secure grab bars at toilet, bath and showers. Also install adjustable, hand-held shower heads. Secure bath mats, area and throw rugs using double-sided rug tape. Install or replace batteries at least once per year in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Service fire extinguishers, plumbing, hot water heater, electrical and heating/AC systems once a year. Reduce hot water temperature to 120 degrees. Finally, remove combustible materials and hazardous waste according to federal, state or local laws.
Regarding safety in the home and on the farm, resist the urge to use workarounds and short-cuts. They often come with serious consequences. Farm families, farm and migrant workers needs to be thoroughly trained on equipment, machinery and emergency plans. Think safety first!
-Kim Vickous, MSN, RN
Marshfield Clinic. (n.d.). North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) Guidelines. [PDF] Retrieved from http://www.nagcat.org/nagcat/?page=guideline_search
Rebuilding Together. (n.d.). Safe at home checklist. [PDF] Retrieved from http://rebuildingtogether.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/RT-Aging-in-Place-Safe-at-Home-Checklist.pdf
United States Department of Labor. (2005). Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Farm safety. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/FarmFactS2.pdf