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Agriculture Ranks Among the Most Hazardous Industries

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. In fact, farming is among the top of any profession in which Americans can be killed on the job. According to the federal agency, 26 out of every 100,000 farmers died of a workplace injury in 2014, the sixth-highest rate of any profession.

Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers. Other causes of death and disability for farmers and their workers occurred from being crushed by the weight of heavy animals like cattle; pesticide exposure, pulmonary disease and fire. Musculoskeletal disorders, hearing loss, and stress also contribute to on-the-job injuries.

Moreover, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) cites that about 167 agricultural workers every day incur a lost-work-time injury. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment. Further, 50% of all hired crop worker injuries are classified as a sprain or strain. In addition, young children and youth working in a farm environment are particularly likely to be involved in accidents.

What can the agriculture industry do to help prevent on-the-job deaths and injuries, specifically with regard to the use of tractors and machinery? Following are some recommendations for your insureds:

  • Overturns (also called rollovers) usually result in massive traumatic injuries to operators and, with about 130 deaths annually, account for more than half of all tractor-related fatalities. It’s recommended, therefore, that a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS), a system designed to protect equipment operators from injuries caused by vehicle overturns or rollover, and seat belts be used to prevent fatalities and injuries. However, according to research provided by the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) and the National Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Agenda, about half of tractors in the U.S. don't have a ROPS system, even though retrofitting is available for many of them. Many older tractors can be retrofitted and newer, ROPS-equipped tractors can replace tractors too old for retrofitting, cites the research. In fact, the research provided on this issue estimates that the number of fatalities due to tractor overturns in agriculture could be reduced by 50% through the use of Roll-Over Protective Structures or similar technologies by 2018.
  • Runovers are the second most common type of death associated with farm tractors in the U.S. Nearly half of runovers involved the operator falling from and being run over by the moving equipment, followed by being struck by rolling equipment not in normal use. To address this hazard, it’s recommended that a farming operation partner with producer groups, trade and technical associations, and safety professionals to identify ways to protect operators and helpers, as well as bystanders exposed to risks of being run over by field or farmstead equipment. Identify persons, tasks, and risk factors associated with runover events and evaluate strategies to reduce exposure to being runover by field or farmstead equipment. Also, identify runover-related problems addressable by technical solutions. For example, evaluate and investigate ways to improve the performance of sensors and systems for enhanced vision and human presence detection and protection, interlock and lockout systems, GPS for worker location and activity monitoring, and sensor technologies that could be applied in production agriculture and service activity workplaces as varying means to address runovers by field or farmstead equipment. In addition, evaluate the effectiveness of existing runover prevention and intervention measures (including barriers, obstacles, and incentives) in use by production agriculture and support activity workers (e.g., equipment dealers). Expand awareness and use of existing, effective runover prevention/intervention measures by farmers, ranchers, and farm workers and their families.
  • According to OSHA, machinery-related injuries for farm workers often involve extremities, hair, or clothing getting caught in running equipment or being struck by the machine or parts of the machine. Be sure accurate training on equipment is provided, along with a safe work environment. Training should emphasize the need for care and concentration when working with vehicles. The operator’s handbook should provide a comprehensive guide to vehicle operation and maintenance.

Worker safety is of paramount importance in agribusiness to prevent on-the-job injuries, illnesses and deaths. RPS provides a comprehensive insurance products for agribusiness clients, including Workers’ Compensation coverage, and can assist you in securing coverage and offering effective loss control strategies.

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