Every day, about 243 ag workers suffer a serious injury. Every year, around 500 people die from farm-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Farmers know their jobs are dangerous, but they live around it every day," says Davis Hill, Pennsylvania State University’s Managing Agricultural Emergencies program director. "Too often, they don’t think anything will happen to them."
"Step back and ask where it is you could be at risk, whether from fumes, moving equipment, falls or chemicals."
Creating a disaster preparedness plan can be difficult, especially if you are working with numerous variables on a large operation.
Large operations present big risks. "As farms get bigger and have more employees, owners realize there could be disastrous effects, lawsuits and more if an event did take place on their farm," Hill says.
In some cases, changing safety standards requires farmers to consider disaster planning, so it’s important to monitor those laws. Kevin Cox, an Indiana crop and cattle producer, recently installed dual-walled fuel storage tanks. "Changes in on-farm fuel storage regulations required us to install that system," Cox says. "We also wrote our spill prevention plan in accordance with those guidelines."
Sometimes it takes a close call to realize the importance of emergency planning. Last year, a Pennsylvania farmer found two sons unresponsive after biking near a manure pit that was being agitated. Both were revived with no lasting effects.
Farmers are more likely to preserve life and property when they are prepared. Every plan should consider the safety of family, co-workers, livestock and emergency response personnel, as well as how to protect crops, equipment, chemicals, water supplies and feed for animals.
Take Inventory. When you’re ready to take action, first identify vulnerable areas, says Fred Whitford, Purdue Pesticide Program coordinator. "Step back and ask where you could be at risk, whether from fumes, moving equipment, chemicals or falls," he says. "Take stock of what could be a likely emergency."
Farmers can begin by creating a list of potential hazards. These could include grain bins, anhydrous tanks, augers, heavy machinery, pit silos and other dangerous areas.
"It’s important we do our due diligence and take all the precautions we can to prevent anything from happening on our farms. If an accident does happen, it won’t be because of negligence," Cox says.