Farm life can be a rewarding and exciting place for families to work, play, and live. However, some factors associated with agricultural lifestyles can make farms a dangerous place for families and workers.
Farming ranks among most deadly
According to the National Safety Council, farming ranks among the four most deadly industries in the United States. One out of every 10 of these workers will suffer an amputation while on the job.
For rural Kentucky farmers, this statistic hits close to home.
Deborah Reed, R.N., Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, says there are several reasons why farm injury and mortality statistics are staggering.
“Farmers rarely retire from their vocation and work long past usual retirement age,” Reed explains.
Children and farm life
She adds that farming is a family affair, with workers as young as preschool age. It is especially important to recognize potential hazards for children working on the farm. From 1982 to 1996, Kentucky was nationally ranked seventh overall in the number of farm machinery deaths among young people.
In the United States, an estimated 100 children and adolescents die of a farm-related injury, and as many as 100,000 children suffer a nonfatal injury associated with agricultural production each year.
Steve Browning, Ph.D., assistant professor, UK College of Nursing, researches the dangers of children’s involvement in livestock farming.
“Farming operations with livestock, especially cattle, are associated with a higher risk of injury for workers compared with other types of farms,” Browning says.
Another health concern for farmers is exposure to the elements. According to Reed, one out of every nine farmers has a respiratory disease, partly due to exposure to dust and mold.
“When you are consistently exposed to heat and wind for hours a day, you are going to age prematurely,” Reed says.
Many farmers suffer from noise-induced hearing loss from loud machinery, which may begin as early as the teen years.
Reed recommends that farmers take some simple precautions to stay safe. She advises farmers to know their limits and try to shorten work hours. Reed says it is important for farmers to keep their machinery well-maintained, to keep safety guards in place, and to shut machinery off and remove keys when completing repairs. It is also important to find supervised care for small children away from work areas.