The agriculture sector accounted for 475 deaths in 2012. With a fatality rate of 21.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, agriculture recorded the highest fatality rate of any industry sector. Additionally, 48,300 injuries were recorded in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This sector employs more than 2 million people in the United States.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is supporting the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety’s National Farm Safety & Health Week, Sept. 15-21, by emphasizing the importance of worker safety in the agricultural industry. The theme for this year’s National Farm Safety & Health Week is “Working Together for Safety in Agriculture.”
“By working together to protect agricultural workers from job hazards and assuring that workers have the right to safety training, we can all make a positive impact on the lives of agricultural workers,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “OSHA has worked diligently with agri-businesses, farm agencies and communities in recent years to increase awareness of the hazards of confined spaces, farm equipment, grain handling and other hazards in the this industry in an effort to promote safety and health on America’s farms.”
Farm Safety and Health Week has been observed annually since 1944 during September as farmers prepare for harvest. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety has posted informational safety and health materials on its website at www.necasag.org.
Farmworkers are at high risk for: fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, heat exposure, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. OSHA has additional information available on its website regarding specific agricultural hazards located at https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/agriculturaloperations/index.html.
Additionally, record numbers of deaths and injuries in 2010 led OSHA to develop a Local Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities, focusing on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards including: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.
In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfments, the highest number on record. OSHA has published information related to common grain industry hazards and abatement methods, proper bin entry techniques, sweep auger use and many other grain related topics at www.osha.gov/SLTC/grainhandling/index.html. The Grain Bin LEP is used in 25 states.
The Grain Handling Safety Coalition can also provide all the necessary training materials to train farmers, commercial grain handling employees, youth, rescue workers and more for free or at a very reduced rate. There are five different safety topics available including an overview of grain handling and storage safety, grain bin entry as well as entanglement, fall and confined space hazards. GHSC also offers “Train the Trainer” courses for companies and communities to have a local resource for training. More information is available at www.grainsafety.org.
Information is also available on the employment of youths in agriculture at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/agriculture/index.html.
Approximately one half of farmworkers are Hispanic. OSHA requires that employers conduct all required training of workers in a language and vocabulary workers can understand. OSHA’s Spanish-language outreach resources, which detail how employers can work cooperatively with OSHA, are:
Hispanic Outreach Module of Compliance Assistance Quick Start, available at: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/quickstarts/hispanic/index_hispanic.html
Spanish-Language Compliance Assistance Resources, available at: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/index_hispanic.html and Podemos Ayudar (We Can Help), available at: https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/spanish/index.html.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions exist for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov