No one can take your place

By Dee Jepsen

National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 17 to 23, 2023. This promotional week has occurred since 1944 to commemorate the hard work, diligence and sacrifices made by our nation’s farmers and ranchers.  

The 2023 theme, “No one can take your place,” reminds us that working in agriculture is different than working other industries. Farms are unique businesses, each producing their own commodity, with their own workforce, management team, and production schedule. Regardless of their size small and large farms can be found in rural, urban and inner-city settings growing food and resources for local and world consumption.

This article was written in the spirit of the hard-working agricultural worker, their dedicated families to pursue an agricultural lifestyle, and the business community that supports the agricultural economy. Here are three short safety and health practices to follow as the fall farming season approaches.

For your safety

Consider the best recommended practices for operating tractors, machinery, ATVs and UTVs, and farmstead systems. Be sure everyone can operate equipment as recommended in the owner’s manual. Provide additional training as needed, and annual refreshment training on specialty equipment at the start of each season. Even the most seasoned employees can be reminded how to safely operate equipment and not push machinery beyond its intended limits. And while completing those maintenance schedules for equipment traveling on public roads, be sure to check the conditions of lighting, reflective tape, and SMVs.

Other general safety items to maintain this fall: Check fire extinguishers to ensure they are fully charged. Use the buddy system while working at stored grain facilities, which also includes checking on lone or remote workers throughout the day.

For your health

Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recommended for the task. Hearing protection is needed in environments over 90 decibels. There are sound APPS available for download onto smart phones to monitor noise levels of farmstead equipment, grain dryers, chainsaws and other short- and long-term tasks.

For respiratory protection do not use medical masks or single strap dust masks. The only effective protection in agricultural environments are masks rated as N-95, N-99, or P-100. 

For your mental well- being

Farm stress is a real concern. During hectic seasons, don’t lose sight of the importance of what you do and why you do it. In agriculture it’s not possible to control everything that impacts your work. Focus on those items that you can control and try to minimize the “stuff” that filters into your workday that you cannot change or control. This is not burying your head in the sand; this is taking care of your head so that your mind can focus on the work at hand.

It’s important to take care of yourself — which includes eating healthy meals and snacks, drinking at least one cup of water every 30 minutes, getting adequate sleep, and taking rest or stretch breaks during the day. Taking care of the body also helps the mind function.

And finally, take time to be mindful of others. When time and tasks build up, it’s possible for tempers to build too. It’s okay to be stressed for a short-term, but try to not let it take over every relationship you have. Think about possible solutions to get you through the day. Can someone else be responsible for some of the tasks you are managing; can you delegate or delay items until the busy season subsides? Or if you are a by-stander and see signs of stress in others, ask how you can help, and keep a check on your farm friends.

There are no short cuts when it comes to the value of a safe and healthy workforce. Both physical and mental health is important for every season on the farm. No one can take the place of our Ohio farmers.

Dee Jepsen, Professor, can be reached at 614-292-6008 or jepsen.4@osu.edu

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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