MASON CITY, Iowa - Each year, harvest is typically a busy, and dangerous, time. 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in the country, with 574 fatalities being reported, or about 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Using the theme 'Every Farmer Counts', this year's National Farm Safety and Health Week is focusing on acknowledging, celebrating and uplifting our country's farmers and ranchers who have had to deal with many challenges over the last few years, from extreme weather to economic changes, as well as promoting safe and healthy practices on farms and ranches this harvest season. Topics being discussed this week include rural road safety, child safety on the farm, emergency preparedness, and safety and health for women in agriculture.
Dr. Charles Schwab is a professor at Iowa State University, and conducts research projects on agricultural and safety issues. The challenges of 2020, from the pandemic and economic uncertainty, to wild weather, may be stressful and taxing on farmers this season. That stress, he says, could lead to serious error, including an accident.
"What we find is when the person is stressed, things change some of the ability to respond, observation techniques, things to keep you safe can be diminished."
To stay in optimal working condition, Schwab emphasizes monitoring your body's signals and stay hydrated and properly nourished, as well as staying alert of your personal health.
"When you ignore those signals, that's when you start to have diminished qualities of your awareness, your observational power might be reduced, your attention span has changed, and your critical thinking skills are diminshed. When that happens, you have a higher potential to be injured, and that's what we're trying to avoid this time of year."
Another major topic being discussed this week is tractor safety. According to Schwab, the number one cause of agricultural-related deaths involve farmers using older tractors without rollover protective structures, or ROPS. He advises farmers, even those who have plenty of experience, to think about using technology with these features in place, whether through using a new tractor or retrofitting an older one.
"It's not about not having the experience, it's not about the individual not doing some things right or wrong. It's about making the choice of using one with ROPS and using one without ROPS. It's almost that simple."
For those who are needing help, we have some resources listed below:
*Iowa Concern (1-800-447-1985)