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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Find A Danger On Your Farm And Fix It.


Are you aware that agriculture is the most dangerous of occupations, usually alternating with mining in taking the most lives and limbs? Your answer is probably yes, and because of that awareness your safety practices have increased over time. Or it could have been spousal pressure that forced you to farm safer. Either way statistics collected by USDA in 2006 are quite telling in the dangers that still exist on today’s farms.

25,000 farm operations were surveyed by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) about safety and health issues, including the use of safety practices around farm implements. For example, US farmers have an estimated 4.236 million tractors, but only 59% had roll-over protective systems (ROPS). Regional variations ranged from 51% in the Northeast to 65% in the South. Of course, that is not an option on some of the larger tractors used in the Midwest, were 44% did not have them. In the year prior to the survey, 6,700 tractors rolled over, and the majority did not have a ROPS system.

An estimated 1,236,000 all-terrain vehicles are on 900,000 farms and 1.1 million are used in the farming operation. 958,000 are on Midwestern and Southern farms.

How about driveline shields on your power take-off equipment? The survey found they were absent on 7% of balers, 14% of brush-cutting mowers, and 16% of sickle bar-type mowers.

Among hog confinement operations, there were 57,000 manure pits on 40,000 operations. Since they sometimes need hands-on maintenance, they can become deadly. The survey found 63% of operators had not entered the pit in the prior 12 months, and 37% had entered the pit at least once and possibly more than 6 times. 60% of the pits were covered with guards, but only 35% had any powered ventilation equipment.

About 1.5 million silos are spread over 430,000 farms, and 90,000 have the capacity to limit the amount of oxygen that reaches the feed. 75% of all silos had external ladders, and only 1/3 could restrict access to the top of the silo.

Underground power lines cross beneath 980,000 farms, with 33% having all of their lines buried, and 37% having less than half buried. The aerial power lines are problems for the 420,000 grain augers on 270,000 farms. Their average height is 41 feet, but some were up to 120 feet in the air. NASS statisticians counted the augers that were PTO-driven, and found 8% were missing the intake chute guard and 8% were missing the PTO shaft driveline guard.

Within the year prior to the survey, only 37% of the operators reported using a dust mask or respirator during their work. Those who did use a dust mask reported dusty environments as the reason. However, of the 66% of farmers who indicated they worked around loud noises, 64% were inclined to use ear plugs or other protective equipment some of the time.

The USDA safety and health study used statistics from 25,000 farms to help other units of government develop safety and health policies. While comparison statistics were not available for prior years, the 2006 survey indicated substantial room for improvement of safety and health practices among farmers. Undoubtedly, great strides have been made, in such areas as using dust masks and ear protection, as well as keeping safety shields and guards in place on PTO drives.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 01/22 at 01:24 AM | Permalink

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