Now's the time to put together your Farm Safety Audit

As a staff member of the Holmes County, Soil and water Conservation District staff, my task today is to create a “blog”. At the outset, I feel it important to note that I do not know what a “blog” is; nor do I know what will be done to my jottings that they might constitute a “blog” worthy of someone’s investiture of the time to read it. Be that as it may, here goes ……. 

A story I read in a magazine reminded me of a friend who was injured when a “silage pile avalanche” caught him operating a skid-steer loader nearby. His injuries were serious, but (thankfully) not life threatening. Consider that a cubic foot of corn silage weighs 45-50 pounds. An avalanche off the face of an 8-10 foot high silage pile has, potentially, several tons of material falling with considerable force. Imagine that the “avalanche” had occurred with a child playing near the pile.

I think we all recognize that agriculture ranks as one of the most hazardous industries. Modern equipment has all sorts of protective gear, seat belts, rollover protection, shields, warning signs of all kinds (in at least two languages), etc. We have (often mandatory) safety training and certification requirements and record keeping. In spite of all these precautions and improvements, accidents can and will occur.

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The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the 2014 (latest figures available) showing 4821 fatal occupational injuries in 2014. Farming and Ranching ranked 6th with deaths (26.7 per 100,000 workers). The five most hazardous occupations ahead of farming were, respectively; Logging, Fishers and Fishing, Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers, Roofers, Refuse and Recyclable Materials Collectors. In case you are interested, the safest of the 200 jobs listed was “Mathematician”. I can only speculate how a person might be injured or killed on that job.

As the harvest season wraps up, I recommend that you put together a team of two or three people to conduct a “Farm Safety Audit” on your farm this winter. You need to be constantly vigilant of safety lapses and you are an essential member of a farm safety audit team, but you need other people as well. You need people who are familiar and comfortable on farms, but not intimately familiar with your farm.  Friends are fine, but you need people who will be ‘honest’ with you. A veterinarian, a farm consultant, a machinery salesman, your minister - you can add to the list of candidates for your team. Dr. Dee Jepsen heads up the OSU Extension Agriculture Safety Office in Columbus. She will gladly help you get started.  

Farm safety audits are not difficult nor are they expensive. You’ll be amazed at how much good help you can get for a couple of freshly baked cookies or a piece of pie.  Most of the safety issues you’ll uncover will be easily remedied by procedural changes in the farm operation, but some could be “pricey." Either way, you’ll benefit from knowing. We cannot eliminate the potential for all injuries and accidents on your farm or anyone else’s farm, but we can eliminate some dangers … if we know about them. A farm safety audit is an easy way to get started toward a “safer farm” for you and your family.

That is what is on my mind today … This has been Dean Slates for the Holmes County Soil and Water Conservation District …  Be Careful Out There!

Dean Slates joined the Holmes SWCD staff in May 2006 as a part-time program assistant, having devoted more than 50 years to the Ohio State University and the furtherance of commercial agriculture in Northeast Ohio. Born and raised on a Carroll County, Ohio dairy farm, Dean holds both bachelor and master of science degrees in ag education from the Ohio State University. After spending 5 years as a vocational agriculture teacher at Norwayne High School, Dean joined Ohio State University where is served as an agricultural Extension agent for 33 years in both Stark and Holmes counties. He and his wife Carol moved to Holmes County in 1988 along with his two daughters, both of whom graduated from West Holmes High School and hold multiple degrees from Ohio State. He currently holds an emeritus appointment with OSU, working in the area of pesticide application technology.  In 2010, he was elected to the Ohio State Farm Science Review and in 2015, completed his 50th year of participation and presentation at Farm Science Review. In his spare time, Dean is co-owner and operator of Northeast Ohio Milk Quality Services Ltd. Contact Dean at 330-674-2811.