U.S. Department of Labor
Program Highlight
Fact Sheet No. OSHA 91-39


FARM SAFETY

There are approximately 3.1 million men and women who work on America's 2.3 million farms and ranches. According to Accident Facts published in 1990 by the National Safety Council, farm accidents and other work-related health problems claim as many as 1300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, most of which are preventable.

Farmers must handle a variety of agricultural chemicals and other toxic and/or irritating substances. Many materials are hazardous and can be fatal if not used and stored properly, especially with inquisitive youngsters around. Farmers are also exposed to dust, sun, noise, and other farming health hazards.

According to a report published by the National Safety Council in its "Accident Facts" 1989 edition, machinery overturns have the highest fatality rate. This fact was contained in a 1988 report for 10 states. These ten states contained one third of the tractors located in the United States.

General Statistics of Farm Accidents
According to "Accident Facts " these are the statistics for farms:

Contributing Factors in Farming Accidents

Emergency Preparedness- Hospital and emergency medical care are not usually available within a reasonable distance; the farmer and his family do not have the ability or time to deal with an emergency until professional help arrives.

Age of workers- Farm surveys indicate that the injury rate is highest among children age 15 and under and adults more than 65 year of age.

Protective Equipment- It has been estimated that the use of protective equipment, such as seat belts on tractors, could prevent up to 40% of all farm work injuries.

Equipment and Machinery- The majority of farm accidents and fatalities involve the use of machinery. Proper machine guarding and equipment maintenance in accordance with the manufacturers recommendation(s) helps in avoiding accidents.

Special Care for Children - Farm accidents claim as many as 300 children's lives per year.

Recommendations for Accident Prevention
The following steps are recommended:

Communicate information concerning hazards to all workers. Prevent pesticide poisonings and dermatitis caused by chemicals by ensuring that protective measures recommended in the MSDSs or labels are taken.

Benefits

The benefits of accident prevention include reduced work injury and illness costs such as worker compensation insurance premiums, lost production and medical costs. A safer more healthful workplace also improves worker production and morale and prevents human suffering.

Summary

OSHA is raising the level of awareness concerning the need for improved farm safety. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Extension Service helps in funding state efforts. The Department of Health and Human Services through its National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting research to determine how best to prevent farm accidents and illnesses.


This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion. This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 523-8151. TDD message referral phone: 1-800-326-2577.

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