Harvest Season Can Be Hazardous for Farmers

SUNDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- It's still harvest season across much of the nation, and farmers and other agricultural workers need to think about safety as they rush to bring their crops in on time, an expert says.

"We've seen everything from broken bones and amputations to unfortunate traumatic situations," Dr. Howard Schumaker, an emergency medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Sparta, Wis., said in a clinic news release.

"Many times farmers feel that due to the weather, they need to hurry to complete their field work," he said. "It's important to just slow down and make sure farm work gets done safely and efficiently."

Many agricultural injuries can be prevented with basic safety equipment and remaining aware about the need for caution on the job, said Schumaker, who outlined several important safety issues and prevention measures.

Constantly breathing in dust from grain bins, silos, milk vats and manure pits can cause respiratory problems such as bronchitis and dangerous heart conditions. You can reduce your risk by wearing a mask over your nose and mouth.

Vehicles such as tractors and all-terrain vehicles cause many farm injuries, especially among children. Always wear a seat belt and helmet. Children should be supervised and given only age-appropriate tasks and access to vehicles and other farm equipment, Schumaker said.

One of the most dangerous pieces of farm equipment is a grain auger, which can cause broken bones, electrocution and amputation if not handled properly. Livestock are another common cause of injury. They can bite, kick, ram or trample someone without warning. Stay attentive and alert when around animals.

Dangerous levels of fatigue can occur when someone works long days and evenings in the field, and can lead to shortness of breath, stroke or heart attack. Try to take breaks, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep, Schumaker recommended.

You can quickly become trapped and suffocate in a grain bin or gravity wagon, and should enter one only when it's absolutely necessary. If you must enter, use a body harness and safety line secured outside the bin, and always have someone watching in case there is an emergency.

Take steps to prevent falls, another common farm danger that can result in broken bones, head injuries and other physical trauma. Use eye protection to shield your eyes from debris whipped up by farm machinery.

More information

The Rural Assistance Center has more about farm health and safety.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, October 2012

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