As we discussed in our previous blog, agriculture ranks as one of the most hazardous industries in the US. This time, we share some data that will answer why safety in agriculture is crucial and what are the most common safety risks that workers are exposed to daily in this industry.
The International Labour Organization estimates that at least 170,000 workers die each year worldwide, which means that workers in agriculture run twice the risk of losing their life while on the job compared with other sectors.
In the US, there are 2,038,000 full-time workers employed in agriculture approximately. In 2018, 574 workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Transportation events, which include vehicles overturning, are the leading cause of deaths in this industry.
In addition to vehicle incidents, farm workers are exposed to many different hazards that can put their health and safety at risk.
Most of the work incidents in agriculture are caused by transportation events which include tractor rollovers, vehicles in reverse movement that hit workers and even collisions when workers drive tractors on roadways. Hence why, it’s essential that employers provide adequate training, assure that machines are in good condition before their operation as well as schedule regular maintenance.
Given the nature of the work activities in agriculture, workers can be exposed to high temperatures, high humidity or sunlight. When workers are performing heavy tasks under these environment conditions, the risk of experiencing heat stress increases. It can result in insolation, exhaustion, dizziness, other illnesses and even death. It’s important that employers take actions to prevent heat stress and provide training in order to make employees understand how it affects their health and safety.
As a part of their job, farm workers are exposed to different substances like pesticides that can result in physical health harms like skin and respiratory irritation, allergies and even skin diseases such as dermatitis. To protect workers, they must wear proper PPE when manipulating pesticides and other chemicals. Also, these substances must be properly labeled in order to know what kind of chemical hazards the worker is exposed to.
Another common work hazard in agriculture is noise. Prolonged exposure to excessive noise coming from tractors, grain dryers, combines, choppers and chainsaws, can lead to permanent hearing loss. Employers can protect their people by limiting time exposure of noisy environments, modify machinery to reduce noise or provide hearing protection equipment.
We have learned that a variety of risk situations can occur to farm workers while they are doing their job and unfortunately, some of these incidents can result in loss of life. When it comes to responding during an emergency at work, such as tractors rollovers, time is crucial because there is a huge gap between prevention and experiencing a work fatality.
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