Fall harvest can be one of agriculture’s busiest and most dangerous times of the year. National Farm Safety and Health Week is observed the third week of September to promote safety throughout the ag industry.
While agriculture, forestry, and fishing make up one of the largest industry sectors in the U.S., most operations are small, with nearly 78 percent employing fewer than ten workers and most relying on family members and/or immigrant, part-time, contract, and seasonal labor. Many workers in these small operations are excluded from labor protections, including many of those enforced by OSHA.
In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 573 fatal work injuries in the Ag, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting sector. This represents the highest fatal occupational injury at 23.1 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. Workers are also at high risk for nonfatal injury/illness, with a rate of 5.2 per 100 FTEs, compared to the all-worker rate of 2.8 per 100 FTEs.
During the fall harvest, the urgency to get a lot of work done in a small amount of time can lead to serious accidents and damage. Taking the time to prepare, plan, and observe can help manage operations, assets, and risks.
- Before the season begins, take steps to prepare and avoid equipment loss of use.
- Complete a basic safety inspection of your facilities, including a check on electrical boxes and connections.
- Inspect fields early and often to identify the quantity and quality of your crop.
- Map all areas of possible erosion or washouts for those who may be operating equipment.
- Conduct worker training on the safe operation of equipment.
Stop-Think-Act is a simple yet powerful tool that encourages workers to consider how their actions can contribute to a safe, productive outcome and stop a task if it cannot be done safely.
Harvest season also means more farm equipment on the roads. Before hitting the road, check your equipment and roadway habits to reduce the risk of a roadway incident.
- Display the Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem on all off-road vehicles.
- Use proper vehicle lighting.
- Comply with state laws.
- Inspect hitches to ensure they are mounted properly before use.
National Farm Safety and Health Week is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the importance of keeping our workers safe while offering an important reminder to adopt new safety practices. For helpful safety resources, contact a member of the AssuredPartners Agribusiness team.