Editor's note: The following commentary was written by Cyndie Sirekis, Director of News Services at the American Farm Bureau Federation and published in Ag Alert, the weekly newspaper of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Most common in rural areas, bright orange "Slow Moving Vehicle" triangles on tractors and other farm equipment also are spotted by motorists in suburban and (sometimes) urban areas, especially as spring planting season approaches. Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to use SMV signs and follow other farm and ranch safety protocols through initiatives such as the Agricultural Safety Awareness Program, which is spearheaded by the Farm Bureau Safety and Health Network.
This year, the theme of the program is "Agricultural Safety: Your Best Investment." Through the program, farmers are urged to take just a few minutes to think about and implement safety precautions before heading out to the field. This can save lives and resources by preventing accidents, injuries and lost time.
The physical, emotional and financial consequences of a serious safety incident on the farm and ranch are well-documented.
According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-work-time injuries daily in the U.S. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment. That equates to 12 workers daily who sustain injuries resulting in permanent disabilities.
Further, between 1992 and 2009, the leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers was tractor overturns. To prevent such tragedies, Farm Bureau promotes the use of a Roll-Over Protective Structure with a seatbelt.
One bright spot is the sharp decline in the total number of youth injuries on farms and ranches. Ag safety statistics compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health indicate that during the 11 years from 1998 to 2009, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries per 1,000 farms (includes youth who live on, visit and are hired to work on farms) declined 57 percent. The rate of injuries per 1,000 household youth (those living on farms) declined by 60 percent during that same period.
Industry experts say for youth on farms additional safety outreach efforts should focus on their use of tractors and other machinery, motor vehicles including ATVs and water hazards.
These statistics emphasize why state Farm Bureaus continue to place a priority on making farms and ranches safer for farmers, their family members and employees.