The amount of farm accidents are a serious concern for both farmers and the public alike. Agricultural accidents can result in injuries and even death, so farmers must take special health and safety measures. However, there has been very little research on what causes farm accidents or how to prevent them. In this article, we will look at some factors contributing to farm safety issues and what can be done about them to make farms safer for everyone involved.
What are the Realities of Working on a Modern Farm?
The reality of working on a modern farm is that farmers often work long hours. The average farmer works around 65 hours per week, with two-thirds working between 50 and 59 hours per week. This is not just to make ends meet. It's the norm in the industry. Jobs that have to be completed on farm are often around the clock and can't be halted just because someone wants a day off. The reality is that the nature of farming businesses means that operations cannot be paused. However, accidents reported on farms have decreased over time, even with more people working longer days. This development has been made possible by technological advances, like the use of agritech, tractors and other machines, that have reduced intensive labour requirements.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, agriculture, forestry and fishing are the riskiest occupations in the United Kingdom. In the farming industry, there has been roughly one death per week reported on average during the last ten years.
Risk Factors for Occupational Accidents in Agriculture
Agricultural workers are at a greater risk of occupational accidents than most people. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) defines agriculture as "work in connection with raising or harvesting any agricultural or horticultural commodity including the raising, shearing, feeding, caring for and managing livestock."
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of accidents include long working hours, pressure to complete tasks quickly, working alone in remote areas and using heavy machinery.
How Does This Problem Impact Safety?
The problem of long working hours is a major concern for farm safety. According to the United States Department of Labor, agriculture is the leading industry for fatal injuries in the workplace. Of the 4,836 accidents reported in 2018, 1,000 were fatal, i.e., resulting in death.
The impact on farm workers and their families can be devastating:
Families lose loved ones due to preventable accidents caused by fatigue or stress from overwork;
Workers miss out on opportunities for financial independence as a result of lost wages caused by work-related injuries; and
Workers are deprived of adequate time with family members due to working conditions that create an unsafe environment at home.
The solutions are simple but require commitment from employers and employees alike: limit hours worked per day (8-10), increase breaks during shifts (15 minutes), keep track of hours worked through time tracking software, increasing the amount of employees on farm to spread the overall workload and provide sufficient training, so employees know how safely perform tasks on their own.
Reasons for Farm Accidents
The most common reason for farm accidents is that they're like any other kind of accident. It's not just farmers who are at risk, but anyone working in an environment where things could go wrong. Farmers often work in large areas with heavy machinery, animals and the outdoors. In addition, farmers are also working long hours, which can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, which will increase the chances of injury or death.
Most people would assume farmers wouldn't be doing anything dangerous because farming is about growing plants and crops. This statement isn't always true because the reality is that farmers have been known to use tools and heavy machinery, like tractors or chainsaws, that can cause serious injuries.
Effects of Long Working Hours on Farms
The effects of long working hours on farms and farming communities are far-reaching. Not only does it negatively impact the health of the workers, but also their family life, social life and their overall mental health.
Many studies conducted worldwide have brought forth such results. For example:
A study on farm workers in Australia showed that those who worked 11 or more hours per week were more likely than others to report symptoms of depression and anxiety. This insight is particularly important because farmers are often reluctant to seek help for mental illness due to the stigma associated with mental illness.
It's also worth noting that depression is much higher among men than women—one study found that 44% of men reported suffering from depression compared with only 15% of women. This disparity could be related to men experiencing higher workplace stress than women. This fact shows that it may very well be time to put less time at work and having a healthier overall work-life balance so workers can spend more time enjoying other aspects of life.
Farm Safety Remains a Leading Challenge for Agriculture and Farming.
Farm safety remains one of the leading challenges for agriculture and farming. Farm accidents are a leading cause of death for young people, with injury rates more than four times higher than in other industries and death rates twice as high. Farm injuries are so common that they have been dubbed "the silent epidemic" – one that is often ignored because it does not receive much media attention.
Farmers face unique risks on their farms compared to non-farming workers:
They work long hours at night and during inclement weather;
They are usually alone when working machinery or when performing tasks such as feeding livestock; and
The size of large farms means that little help is readily available if something goes wrong.
How Can We Help?
Agricultural Recruitment Specialists have access to skilled candidates who can perform their jobs safely and efficiently. We can find candidates who have completed training courses in safety procedures, first aid and basic life support to know what steps to take if an accident occurs. We are also able to offer additional employees to farms, so that the overall workload is spread, thus reducing the amount of farming accidents for the reasons stated above.
We provide a wide range of services to agricultural employers across the country. Our recruiters are experts in finding the best candidates for any given position within the agriculture industry. We offer temporary employment opportunities and permanent placement options depending on your needs.
Our Final Thoughts
The farm accident problem has been a serious concern for agriculture for several years. This problem will likely continue to be an issue if nothing is done to address it. The good news is that there are steps you can take right now to reduce your risk of falling victim to farm accidents, such as getting appropriate rest when not at work, wearing proper safety equipment, following proper safety procedures, checking equipment before use and regularly, and also communicating with other workers about potential hazards that they may not notice.