Risk management is always a hot topic in agriculture. What is typically meant is managing financial risk through tools such as insurance, forward contracting or cropping/livestock production strategies to minimize the risk of failure. We most often associate risk management with money, economic survival. What can we do to stay in business and make sure our operation can stay in business and hopefully turn a decent profit? Today, let’s focus on another form of risk management – avoiding serious injury and even death on the farm.
Some facts and figures in a moment but first let’s touch on event that just finished yesterday – Tractor Safety – a class sponsored by the Barton County Extension Office. This class is designed for young people wanting to obtain employment in a farm setting. To help provide them with basic safety and equipment information, they are required to pass a Tractor Safety Class before working for an operation other than their own families. Local area producers and agribusiness help with the class. While they can’t learn everything, the instructors do a good job at providing the basics of safely working on and around equipment. Now for some facts.
• The Kansas Farm Bureau reports ten fatal and two nonfatal “incidents” in 2015 in Kansas. The overall fatality rate for farmers in the U.S. is approximately 24 per 100,000 farmers. While agriculture is still one of the most dangerous occupations, fatalities are down significantly over the last several years. However, it is still more dangerous than being a law enforcement officer according to most data. The agricultural industry is safer than being a refuse collector or roofer.
• Agricultural accidents happen on farms, ranches, and facilities such as grain elevators and feedyards. Tractor accidents are the most common. Males have higher accident rates than females and hired workers a higher rate than family.
• The accident rate is highest for children 15 and under and also for those 65 and over. A great many of these accidents, up to 40%, could be prevented using proper personal protective equipment and maintaining shield and guards.
• Major causes of accidents involve familiarity with routine tasks and also a lack of familiarity for those new tasks. Another major cause is hurrying and not taking time for repairs and maintenance, especially during busy times such as planting and harvest. Finally fatigue is a major contributing factor.
Is this to imply that young people shouldn’t work on farms? No. It does tell us we need to take care in what tasks are age appropriate and remember that no matter how grown up, careful or intelligent young people are, they lack the wisdom of experience. Young people too often can’t appreciate the potential dangers of many situations. Working in agriculture teaches young people many valuable lessons for life. We have to make sure taking care and being safe is one of them.