John-Deere-tractorThis week marks the National Farm Safety Week. Iowa State University Extension Safety Specialist Chuck Schwab says agriculture ranks as one of this nation’s most dangerous occupations.

“When you compare that to mining construction, manufacturing, transportation, all those other industries — agriculture typically has a higher death rate per hundred thousand workers than all the other ones. So much higher, that it’s usually on the magnitude of about eight times higher,” Schwab says. “So, it’s very,very dangerous when you look at the number of people who are killed compared to the number of people who actually working in the industry.”

Schwab says agriculture is unique as people of all ages are involved. “Unlike so many other industries where there’s retirement age and then there’s minimum age, farming tends to have a wide variety of individuals. So, it can be young, old in the mainstream workforce that’s out there,” according to Schwab. “And so, it spans all the generations and it’s important for every to have the philosophy of ‘safety first’ and think about being safe as you are doing your work.”

Schwab says as the harvest gets underway, roadway safety is one of the key issues. He says farmers should take frequent breaks to avoid accidents caused by fatigue. “The other aspect is you should have somebody keeping tabs on you. If you are the only person working out in that field, you should have a check in,” Schwab says.

Schwab says having someone keep track of you can ensure you quickly get help if something goes wrong. “If something does happen, you want somebody to be able to respond. You don’t want to be found 24 hours later with some type of severe injury so you couldn’t reach out and get ahold of somebody. So, have some check-in times to make sure that you are still safe and that everything is good,” Schwab says.

The extension safety specialist suggests farmers also need to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, stay hydrated and have refreshments, and to stretch before doing heavy work.

(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)