Wow! I just spent the last week or so emerged in learning about agricultural and medicine through an agricultural medicine course at UNMC. This course opened my eyes to some of the dangers related with this industry. Agricultural medicine is an interdisciplinary study in occupational and environmental health within the agricultural community. Agriculture is the most dangerous industry/occupation in the world.
I guess, like many other people, I never realized or never really thought about the occupational and environmental hazards of production agriculture before I learned about this class. Now, I have a much better understanding and appreciation for what really goes into producing the food that we share on our table everyday. I want to share some of the basics here:
- There are many health issues related with production agriculture including hearing loss, chemical exposures, animal exposures, skin diseases, vibration injuries, respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal issues, exposure to extreme weather, and of course, injuries occurring from equipment especially tractors. Many agricultural injuries, diseases, and fatalities could be prevented. There is a need for a comprehensive approach to farm safety.
- There are about 540 deaths per/year in the United States equating to a fatality rate of about 30 deaths/100,000 workers. This is higher than any other industry including construction and manufacturing.
- There are groups that are at a higher risk for injury on the farm including children, older adults, farm workers, and anabaptist groups. Some of the reasons for this include the lack of childcare facilities near agricultural centers, unsafe play areas, use of older farm equipment, lack of adequate personal protective equipment, potential limited English proficiency, and adherence to traditional ways of working the land.
- Contrary to popular belief, not all farming is regulated. In fact, family farms are not subject to OSHA regulations. Only farms that have 11 or more hired workers/employees are subject to OSHA regulations.
- The 3 E’s of safety are Engineering, Enforcement, and Education; however, the most effective way to prevent some of these injuries and exposures is to engineer them out of the farm and the equipment.
Here are some links if you want to learn more:
- Agrisafe Network
- Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health
- Farm Safety 4 Just Kids
- Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health