Farm safety: Time to shift into high gear

By Dee Jepsen

This year’s National Farm Safety and Health Week commemorated the hard work, diligence, and sacrifices made by our nation’s farmers and ranchers.

The 2019 theme is “Shift farm safety into high gear.” The national theme reminds us that harvest is one of the highest seasons for unexpected deaths and serious injury. In Ohio, our state rates increase in the summer months and continue to rise through October.

During harvest season, it’s important to shift our minds towards safety. Each day of the national campaign, there will a focus on different topics.


Tractor safety and rural roadway safety

There is no surprise that the tractor is the most common injury agent on Ohio farms. In the past 10 years, tractors and towed machinery represent 61% of all Ohio farm deaths. Common reasons for injury include rollovers, runovers, PTO and roadway crashes.


Farmer health and suicide prevention

Several factors have increased the overall stress level for the 2019 farming season. While farming can be a stressful occupation, a combination of weather, markets, and other financial changes within commodity sectors have taken a particularly hard toll on Ohio agriculture. Additional resources are available to help the family farmer through stressful times through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services ( or a confidential crisis hotline is available 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741. People care, and people are there to listen.


Safety and health for youth in agriculture

In no other industry are family members, especially children, able to accompany their parents into the workforce like agriculture. Keeping youth safe while they are on the job is a reason for Safety in Agriculture for Youth project. Through this national initiative, educational resources are available to anyone interested in farm safety materials. A national clearinghouse has a website of materials for agricultural science teachers, 4-H clubs, parents and employers. Check out the SAY link at


Confined spaces in agriculture

Grain bins are considered confined spaces and pose various health and safety risks for farmers. On-farm grain storage has increased over the years, where farmers are able to store and manage their crop for longer periods of time. The longer the grain is in the bins, the longer these risks need managed. Safety risks can be managed by following several best management practices: avoid working alone at the bin, lock-out equipment when performing maintenance, and wear a fall protection harness when working at heights (inside and outside of the bin).

The two primary health risks at the bin are noise induced hearing loss and over-exposure to organic dust. Many operations have equipment operating over 80 decibels, and good hearing protection — either plugs or muffs with an NRR of at least 15 — will keep the ears from ringing. Grain dust is not only comprised of plant material but also insect parts and other residues. Oftentimes these particles are the size that can lodge deep into the respiratory track. Wearing an two-strap N-95 respirator offers the best protection. A single strap paper mask is not adequate for organic grain dust.


Safety and health for women in agriculture

A recent USDA report indicates more women are entering the agricultural workforce, or designated as the primary operator. While Ohio data does not show an increase in women injuries or fatalities, the Ohio Agricultural Safety & Health program has recently created educational resources specific for women farmers. The safety messages are catered to the types of equipment female operators are likely to use, and the types of tasks they perform. To request more on this topic, please contact the author of this article.

It’s time to kick our efforts into high gear and address the main hazards and populations at risk. By working together, Ohio farms can reduce their injury rates.

Be ready to engage with the Ohio Agricultural Safety and Health program through social media and share messages with others in your network. Our Facebook page is OSU Ag Safety & Health, and our Twitter handle is OSUAgSafety.


Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor, can be reached at 292-6008 or This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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One comment

  1. I worked in a farm when I was around 19, 20 years old and I’m really glad that they are more aware of using hearing protection nowadays. I used to have ringing ears every time I come home. I regularly use my Big Ear custom earplugs now that I work as a woodworker. Just have to do things to conserve my hearing.

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