Agriculture rarely tops the “news of the day” unless there is a food recall or a drastic increase in the price of commodities. On any given day, agriculture and those who work in it don’t play a major role in the public’s daily thought menu.
Consequently, the general public does not give much thought to the dangers in agriculture and particularly the dangers faced by youth in agriculture. Agriculture has one of the highest injury rates of any professional field, and has many hazards that can severely injure or kill.
Every year, more than 2 million youth under the age of 18 are exposed to the many hazards of farm life, and a significant number of them are injured, permanently disabled, or killed. Hazards will exist for the foreseeable future, but there are two things that can alleviate the dangers: Consider what we are exposing teenage workers to, and what we can do to improve safety on the farm.
Potential hazards include:
- Tractors. Between 1992 and 1996, 23% of teen deaths in agriculture involved a tractor accident.
- Other machinery. Most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery. Getting hit by, run-over or entangled in machinery can lead to death or severe injury.
- Impact with machinery or flying objects. One of the main hazards of front-end loaders and skid-steer loaders is being struck and crushed by the bucket, bucket arms, or material falling from the bucket.
- Falls. Falls are the most common accident in agriculture and they often result in serious injuries or death. Falls of just 12 feet can be fatal.
- Electrocution. Each year, 3.6 percent of the deaths of youths under age 20 on farms are caused by electrocution.
- Confined Spaces. Asphyxiation from gasses or concentrated particulate is always a risk when entering a confined area such as a manure pit, silo, grain bin, or other confined areas, that may not have adequate ventilation.
- Chemicals. Pesticides can be dangerous if you are working in fields that have been treated or sprayed with them or when handling and applying them. Pesticides can enter your body in many ways.
Contact with skin and/or clothes are the main ways chemicals enter your body. Another mode is inhalation of mist, dust, fumes, or smoke containing pesticides and chemicals. Failure to wash hands properly before eating after working with such chemical can also cause poisoning.
- Organic dust. Organic dust comes from hay, grain, fuel chips, straw and livestock. and includes molds, pollens, bacteria, pesticides, chemicals, feed and bedding particles, and animal particles including hair, feathers, and droppings.
There are many dangers on this list, and they have claimed the lives of many teenage farm workers. To protect young workers from these hazards all safety procedures must be followed.
For every hazard, there may be one or many safety guidelines that, if followed, can alleviate the danger and these guidelines should be followed to the letter.
To learn more about what can be done to improve safety in agriculture and keep young workers safe, please visit osha.gov./SLTC/youth/agriculture/index.html.