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Preventing Farm Accidents

Updated August 19, 2020 . AmFam Team

Knowing how to work safely on the farm starts with the boots on the ground — preventing slips, trips and falls before they start. Here are several tips to keep your farm safe from some daily hazards.

Preventing falls from happening on your farm is serious business. In 2015, almost 36,000 workers suffered a farm work-related accident. Injuries resulting from farm worker falls are the second most common accident in all of agriculture — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The physical demands of a job on the farm can take a toll on workers in the form of broken bones and other severe injuries.

It’s no secret that farm owners are at increased exposure to workman’s compensation claims and lawsuits resulting from work-related injuries. But with a little focus, training and education, worker downtime and on-the-job injuries can be decreased if careful attention is paid to reduce slip and fall risks on the farm. And it’s why we’ve put together these tips — to help prevent accidents and keep your farm a safe place to work.

1. Discuss and Chart Worker Injuries

A smart workforce is one less likely to fall victim to unanticipated mistakes. Use a job board in a break area to post details about known hazards as they come in.

2. Share Working Conditions With Entire Staff

If a worker slips on icy stairs, make staffers aware of this condition by discussing how the accident happened and details about how to prevent it from happening again on that job board. And make sure that prompt attention is paid to remedy the situation.

3. Appoint Employee Safety Reps

Another great idea is to assign a safety manager to occasionally patrol the farm for potential concerns. In the end, your farm will be positioned to be prosperous and can benefit in a myriad of ways. Employees are more likely to work harder if they know that their boss is looking out for them.

4. Train Staff to Work Smarter

Working at elevations — both low and high — is a frequent occurrence on the farm. If you work with silos, hoppers, vats or tanks, odds are you’re going to be climbing up a ladder to get the job done. Be sure to keep the ladder on a flat, even surface.

5. Assign Spotters When Using Ladders

While extension ladders are great for higher elevations, these can pose a risk when the angle of the ladder is too extreme. Assign a spotter — or second person — to “foot” the ladder and prevent the feet from slipping.

6. Teach Workers How to Reduce Falling Risks

Educate employees on working safely at heights by teaching them about the Three Points of Contact method. Train them to work on the ladder with one hand holding a ladder rung and both feet planted on the ladder, using their free hand to work and get the job done. This helps to establish a strong "triangle of stability" and can help prevent uncontrolled falls.

7. Train Workers to Avoid Working at Heights

Another best practice is to encourage employees to reduce risks by staying off a ladder altogether. Encourage them to use a scaffold or scissor lift instead of a ladder when working at heights for an extended period of time.

8. Paint With Extension Poles

If workers are considering the use of a ladder for painting, remind them that they can use extension poles which may negate the need for a ladder altogether. It’s the safer, smarter choice. Thinking this way will often result in less fatigue for both feet and body.

9. Challenge Workers to Be Safer Than Before

Building safety measures into routines when workers perform a task can really pay off. Encourage employees to make each time they get on the ladder to be safer and smarter than the last time. 

10. Promptly Clean Up and Mark Spills

If a spill happens, be sure to neutralize the mess quickly. Wipe up or clean up the spill ASAP and have caution signage available on slippery surfaces to help keep workers safe.

11. Enforce OSHA Harness and Lanyard Requirements

Many jobs on the farm require lanyards or other body harnesses to help reduce fall risks. If workers get up to working height and something just doesn’t feel right, tell them to stop and discuss the problem with a manager.

12. Provide Safety Tie-off Points

Install points where workers can safely tie lanyards off while working on ladders or lifts. This extra precaution is a great idea if workers will be making repairs at the same elevated location over a period of time. Installing points can help them feel safer and work more confidently.

13. Review OSHA Agricultural Laws and Regulations

Offer time at morning meetings with employees to discuss OSHA safety protocols (Opens in a new tab) and allow workers space to review their concerns. Be sure to make it clear that safety is your most important priority. And work with the rest of your managers on active listening skills which repeat worker issues and empathize with their position.

You’ll have staffers that know you’re hearing what they’re telling you. Quickly take action to remedy the issue and inform your team on progress made to address their concerns.

14. Train Workers on Proper Tool Use at Heights

Handling tools correctly at elevations should also be part of your training routine. And workers should be aware of how to operate tools on slippery surfaces. 

15. Assemble Parts on the Ground

When installing items at heights, train employees to assemble as much as they can on the ground before getting on a ladder. Provide tool pouches for workers to help keep hands free for other tasks.

16. Review Silo Ladder Safety

Always install a cage guard, hoop or other fall protection system. Tethering points are a great addition, but ladder rungs work as well for that purpose. Remember to inspect ladders frequently — use each ascent as an opportunity to take note of any issues.

Look for bent or twisted upright stiles, broken or bent rungs. Have a tracking system in place so that problems can be addressed and managed until they’re resolved, and never crawl up on one of these ladders without a look out person.

17. Verify Ladder Start Heights

If ladders are attached to silos, grain bins or other multi-story vertical structures, make certain that the ladder starts well above a height that kids can’t reach.

18. Provide Cash for Worker PPE and Footwear

One great way to help keep your employees safe is by providing them with funds for the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe. By reimbursing workers for PPE expenses and protective footwear, they’ll be incentivized to work safely, and your operation can better avoid expensive workman’s comp insurance claims.

19. Source the Right Boot

Suggest that employees find composite-based work boots with both toe and shank protection, which acts as a shield against puncture wounds to the bottom of the foot. They’re a good alternative to steel-toed boots that can retain cold temperatures and they’re known to make it difficult to extract the foot if a crush has occurred. Composite or nylon-toed boots usually return to their original shape if dented and they won’t conduct electricity like their steel-toed counterparts.

20. Assess Worksite Hazards Every Day

Working on the farm means being outdoors in every possible weather condition. Be sure to inventory each worksite for hazards and risks — holes in the ground, slippery surfaces — and be sure workers are aware of these changing conditions before they get to work.

21. Let Safety Inform Decisions on the Farm

Attending to all the risks farmers face on a daily basis is a tough job in itself. But your hard work means that you can rest a little easier knowing the farm is a safer place to work today than it was yesterday. Your commitment to continuously improve the workplace will stand as an important sign that your employees will notice and appreciate. And you’re going feel better by retaining employees that know how to work safely.

Get the Coverage Your Farm Needs

Optimizing farm safety is just one part of protecting your investments. Take a look at our Farm & Ranch insurance options to build the policy that fits your operation. With American Family, you’ll have board-certified safety professionals to help you run a smarter business. And if the unexpected should happen, your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) will work hard to get you back on your feet.

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