To produce enough food and fiber to supply worldwide consumer markets, farmers often work through adverse and hazardous conditions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, agricultural occupations are the most dangerous in America, with 573 fatalities registered in 2019, or 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers.
And, this time of year, fall harvest time, leads to one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. That’s why the third week of September is designated National Farm Safety and Health Week. The theme of this year’s 78th annual event is “Farm Safety Yields Real Results,” a reminder that safety is a vital part of agriculture, according to the AgriSafe Network, an international nonprofit representing health and safety professionals.
2021’s Topics of Focus –
Including Respiratory and Chemical Awareness
National Farm Safety and Health Week has taken place every September since 1944, when the National Safety Council coordinated the project. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety at Northeast Iowa Community College’s Peosta campus later took control of developing each year’s campaign materials. This year’s event will feature daily themes which include:
Monday, September 20 - Tractor Safety & Rural Roadway Safety
Tuesday, September 21 - Overall Farmer Health
Wednesday, September 22 - Safety & Health for Youth in Agriculture
Thursday, September 23 - Agricultural Fertilizer & Chemical Safety
Friday, September 24 - Safety & Health for Women in Agriculture
AgriSafe will also be providing 10 free webinars that will focus on topics relative to agricultural health and safety professionals, health care providers, producers, and farmworkers. One of the Thursday sessions includes “Best Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Protect Your Lungs”. It’s intended to provide resources on identifying respiratory hazards in the workplace, as well as information on the latest equipment developments.
The Dangers of Chemicals on the Farm
As it’s Farm Safety Week, it’s worth noting that one of the leading causes of farming accidents is dangerous chemical exposure. Exposure can lead to many immediate and long-term health effects including headaches, poisoning, respiratory illness, burns, and birth defects.
Dangerous chemical often used in agricultural settings include but aren’t limited to:
- Herbicides: Commonly known as weed killers, herbicides are chemical substances used to control and kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill certain targets and leave the desired crop relatively unharmed, while non-selective herbicides kill all of the plant material they come into contact with. Herbicides are commonly used in agriculture, and they’re known to cause a variety of health effects.
- Pesticides: Pesticides are chemical substances used to kill plants and animals that are considered pests. Pesticides include herbicides (destroy unwanted plants), insecticides (control a variety of insects), fungicides (prevent the growth of mold and mildew), and disinfectants (prevent the spread of bacteria). Pesticides are commonly used in agriculture, and they’re known to cause a variety of health effects.
- Anhydrous Ammonia: This is a pungent, colorless, and toxic gas or liquid. When released into the air, it expands rapidly, forming a large cloud of toxic vapor. Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer, and it can be extremely dangerous to your life and health.
Handling Chemicals Safely
While manufacturers are required to supply a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that details information on using the chemical, a broad list of suggestions for the safe use of chemicals include:
- Ensure anyone using agricultural chemicals is suitably trained to use both the chemical and any equipment required for application.
- Use chemical decanting kits to reduce the risk of spills and splashes while mixing chemicals.
- Only mix the quantity of chemical required for the task at hand, do not over pour.
- Make sure the decanting and mixing area is well ventilated. If this isn’t possible, ensure that recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn for enclosed environments.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label at all times.
- Always wear recommended protective clothing such as chemical-resistant gloves, overalls, goggles, and appropriate P2 facemasks or a P3 respirator.
- Avoid exposing non-target animals or plants, as the adverse effects of the chemical to you may apply to them as well.
- Triple rinse equipment after chemical application and dispose of the rinse water appropriately.
Your Partner for Farm Safety Compliance
Risks are a reality in the agricultural industry, but by adhering to basic, common sense principles and clear communication, chemical and other farming-related hazards can be avoided. Clarion Safety has a full line of standards compliant, best practice safety signs and labels to help alert your workers to dangers. If you’re looking for a custom option, get in touch with our service team, who’s trained to design safety visuals that are suited to your unique needs.