HOW OSU EXTENSION HELPS
The Agricultural Safety and Health program strives to make sure necessary education on farm safety is accessible to people involved in the agricultural world, even if safety may not seem as exciting as some other topics.
“Lots of farmers are interested in new precision technology that we can incorporate into our farms, but to also get them to step back and focus on safety is our ultimate goal,” said Pfeifer.
One of the difficulties the Agricultural Safety and Health program faces in its Extension work is making sure farmers understand these injuries and fatalities can happen to anyone. She explained, “farmers tend to grow up … being part of a farm, so many of them have reached a certain point in their life and never had any kind of injury incident or faced the aftermath of fatality on a farm.”
One of the biggest programs the Agricultural Safety and Health program does is their Grain C.A.R.T. (Comprehensive Agricultural Rescue Trailer). The Grain C.A.R.T is a mobile unit that can simulate a grain entrapment situation which is taken across the state and used to educate first responders about how to respond to a grain engulfment situation if they are ever called to a farm to address such an emergency.
The training with C.A.R.T, “allows them to put a person in that victim role and then rescue them from that grain environment and go through the steps and the tools that they would utilize to do those types of rescues,” said Pfeifer. The cart is also used to educate farmers on prevention mechanisms they can take on the farm to keep themselves safe and to keep from becoming engulfed in grain.
With tractors causing the most injuries and fatalities on the farm, the Agricultural Safety and Health program also focuses a lot of outreach education on tractor safety. They run a Tractor & Machinery Certification Program, which is a 25-hour educational course on how to operate farm machinery safely. The Agricultural Safety and Health program also educates farmers about rollover protection systems (ROPS), which are structures that protect the drivers in the event of an overturn, and the importance of wearing a seat beat while driving a tractor so the ROPS can be effective. This education is important because although the use of both a ROPS and a seatbelt is 99 percent effective in preventing a tractor rollover death, not everyone uses them.
IF WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE NEED TO IMPROVE, WE WON’T IMPROVE.”
Other outreach programs include safety talks in conjunction with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and farmers who attend these two-hour training sessions receive the added benefit of reduced insurance rates. The Agricultural Safety and Health program does these training sessions on a wide variety of safety topics including tractor rollover, the necessity of hearing protection and dangers of sun exposure. In the future, the program may include even more topics.
“The university is gearing up to focus on farmer stress as well,” said Pfeifer, since the “national implication is that the farming population is seeing more and more effects of stress.”
“We try to listen to feedback of our farmers and do our best to stay out and present in front of them so that they’re not sidelining safety,” Pfeifer said. “We try to follow the emerging trends and needs of our population.”
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
The Extension service works to stay on top of those emerging trends through research. Much of the outreach OSU’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program is informed by research done by Dee Jepsen, Ph.D., state leader for agricultural safety and health.
Jepsen’s research is primarily in surveillance research, meaning she keeps track of injuries and fatalities that happen on farms in Ohio, as well as what caused them and who the victims are. This allows the Agricultural Safety and Health Program to get an idea of what the risk factors on farms actually are so they may be addressed.
As Jepsen said, “If we don’t know what we need to improve, we won’t improve.”
The data is collected through a combination of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coroner reports, public record, and the personal testimony of farmers. Once the data is collected, the Agricultural Safety and Health program partners in research with undergraduate and graduate students and epidemiologists to help analyze the data and make it accessible. The data can be found on the Agricultural Safety and Health Program’s website, agsafety.osu.edu.
Jepsen’s other major area of research is on the effectiveness of safety solutions.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve quality of life,” she said, and, “we really want to make sure that what we recommend is effective,” especially because it is sometimes difficult to get farmers to accept changes they have not grown up around.
For Jepsen, knowledge is empowering. The statistics she collects sometimes paint a bleak picture, but as she says, “the good thing is we can actually make a difference and change the statistics if we acknowledge [the dangers inherent in farming and the importance of safety practices] and work to make a difference.”