Chances are we all have a friend or a friend of a friend who was killed in a farm-related accident, says Kelly Reed, DVM with Diamond V, in the July Dairy Girl Network (DGN) webinar. That’s because agriculture has more work-related deaths and injuries than all other U.S. industries combined.
While personal experiences can be startling, so are the statistics. Every three days, a child dies in an agriculture-related accident, Reed said of a report by the National Children’s Center. Additionally, 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury each day, according to a report Reed cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
“Growing up, we used to joke and call my dad ‘Captain Safety’ because he was always on us about things,” Reed said. “I was a teenager the first time I had a friend killed in a farming accident, and it makes those things so much more real.”
Reed is a dairy veterinarian and also advises a 1,500-head calf farm in Washington, said Andrea Brossard, host of the DGN webinar. Reed said working with a variety of dairies has given her experiences ranging from state inspections to work-related deaths, and she brought a personal approach to training employees.
“What I really tried to hammer home with my employees was, ‘Every person goes home to their families every night,’” Reed said. “We work for a living, but we live for our families.”
Reed encouraged webinar attendees to openly discuss near-miss accidents on their farms, even posting billboards with pictures of what was done incorrectly. She encouraged farms to hold monthly safety meetings, too.
“I don’t claim to be some sort of safety expert,” Reed said. “I just want to share with you some of my personal experiences and what I learned along the way.”
Protocols should cover aspects a farmer may not typically consider, such as when to treat a worker on-farm vs. calling emergency services and which supervisor to contact in off-hours based on who can respond quickest to the specific location, Reed said. An elderly employee’s death reminded Reed of the importance of making these protocols second-nature before the high-stress situation hits.
“When we’re in school, we do fire drills, and when we’re in the Midwest, we do tornado drills,” Reed said. “I really think if we had done emergency drills and some role play, it might have made helped make that more automatic for us.”
Not only should protocols be established, but equipment should be inspected, Reed said. Reed described an accident when an employee drove an old tractor with a beat-up slow-moving vehicle (SMV) reflector that had lost its visibility on a road at night. Thankfully, she said no one was killed.
“The equipment wasn’t effective,” Reed said. “It isn’t just if it’s there but if it’s able to do its job.”