Sept. 20 to 26 is recognized as Farm and Safety Week by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety in Peosta, Iowa, and is an appropriate time to remember the importance of a single goal to stop rural tragedies that lurk around every grain bin, unmarked intersection or PTO shaft.

The annual safety week occurs during the start of fall, which in many High Plains communities is the busiest time of the year when farmers and ranchers are harvesting spring crops, moving cattle closer to home and planting wheat crops. Those who are nostalgic remember fall as a time for barn dances, fresh apple cider, hayrack rides and enjoying the beauty of a harvest moon.

This time is also one that is filled with many hazards. Too many stories are told about farmers and ranchers who were on their last harvest season but overlooked the importance of a safety guard and severed an arm or leg. Avoiding a repeat story does take recognition by families and individuals to put safety first and stress that it is more important than saving time.

The theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week 2020 aptly named “Every Farmer Counts.” According to the NECAS, “The theme is to acknowledge, celebrate and uplift America’s farmers and ranchers who have encountered many challenges over the past couple of years, yet continue to work hard to provide the food, fiber, and fuel that we need. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there are about 3.4 million agricultural producers in America, which is only about 1% of our population. These farmers and ranchers not only provide the essentials that we need, but they do wonderful things for their families and friends, their communities, and beyond. That is why ‘Every Farmer Counts’ and now is the time to prioritize their safety and health.”

Among the topics the NECAS, the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council, is focusing on this week is tractor safety and rural roadway safety, overall farmer health, safety and health for youth, emergency preparedness and safety and health for women.

According to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government indicates the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 574 fatalities, or an equivalent of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Each year it seems to add more challenges than the previous ones, some of the more known ones include untimely weather, equipment breakdowns or a lack of labor availability.

All of these knowns led to the observation about the importance of working together to stress safety and providing appropriate training and recognizing that it ultimately becomes an individual who feels comfortable in his or her decision.

This fall harvest season will have many more visitors because they were restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. Those visitors are looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors and as a result, farmers will have to watch for guests who while enjoying the brilliant sunshine also may create blind spots that can lead to tragedy. They also might be halfway pulled off the road to take a harvest photo or capture a colorful field of sunflowers or sorghum.

We want the fall and harvest season to be the safest ever. When it comes to farm safety news, a season of no accidents is music to our ears.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.


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