Make Your Farm a Certified Safe Farm

— Written By Zack Taylor and last updated by

Farming can be a risky business. Did you know that across all industries, the sector of agriculture, forestry, and commercial fishing has the highest rate of occupational deaths? On average, there are 480 farm-work related deaths every year, a rate of 22.2 per 100,000 workers. Every year, 115 children between the ages of 0 and 19 die on a farm, and 4 out of 5 of those children were present in the workplace but not working. That is because for the family farmer, the workplace is the home. Fatal injuries can occur anywhere on the farm. While tractor accidents are the leading cause of death, other fatal injuries often involve livestock, falls from heights, and suffocation from grains and gasses. Not all injuries are fatal. Every day 38 children are injured in on farm accidents, again, only 20% of them are working when the injury occurred. An additional 167 agricultural workers suffer lost time injuries every day, and 5% of those injuries involve some sort of permanent impairment.

Now that I have your attention, the good news is that many of these injuries can be avoided. Many accidents occur every day due to slips and falls. There are a number of ways these types of accidents can be prevented or avoided, improving lighting, keeping doorways clean, using grip tape on steps and ladders, and keeping the workplace tidy, are just a few simple ways to decrease the risk of a fall. As mentioned, tractor injuries are the leading cause of death in on farm accidents. Many of these accidents can be avoided as well by inspecting machinery to ensure safety shields are in place and working properly, and that the operator’s area is clear of clutter. Checking that all lights and safety markers are in place can also help reduce the risk of an accident on the road. Many injuries occur when working with livestock. Taking the time to clean and inspect working areas can help to greatly reduce this risk.

Not only can farm injuries be devastating to families, they can cost the operation a lot of money. Each year, on farm injuries cost the agricultural industry an estimated 8.3 billion dollars in medical cost and lost time. Think about it, an injury on your farm can leads to the loss of a productive worker, loss of any machinery that may be damaged, emotional distress among witnesses and co-workers, and hiring and re-training cost just to name a few. For the typical farm operation, this means about a 30% reduction in income. Investing in safety will save your farm money. Studies have shown that a good safety program saves 4 to 6 dollars for every 1 dollar invested in the program.

So how can you invest in a safer farm? By becoming a Certified Safe Farm. Becoming certified is easy. Just contact me, Zack Taylor, at the extension office. I will schedule a date that works for you, visit your farm along with a representative from NC State, and perform a visual inspection of your farm. It is not a regulatory process, just a chance for an outside set of eyes to look at the farm and help identify possible safety hazards that you may have never noticed. After the inspection, if you are determined to have a safe farm, you will become a Certified Safe Farm. You will be recognized with a sign you can proudly display and qualify for reduced insurance rates, and even some cost share money to help invest in safety improvements around the farm. You also have the option to go one step further and become a Gold Star Certified Safe Farm, by getting a health screening for just $10 per employee. The health screening checks blood pressure, blood sugar, hearing, lung function, vision, skin cancer and more, making it quite a deal.

If you are a farm owner, large or small, and interested in improving safety on your farm and lowering insurance premiums, schedule an appointment today. It may save your own life or that of a loved one, and will almost certainly increase your farm productivity. Learn more about the program at https://appliedecology.cals.ncsu.edu/certified-safe-farm/, or call the extension office to ask questions and sign up at 919-775-5624.

Zack Taylor is the Agriculture Agent – Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.