What if National Farm Safety and Health Week had existed in earlier times?
As humans transitioned from hunters and gatherers to primitive agriculturalists, people could have been warned about the continuing dangers of wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers as they began to cultivate the land.
As settlers pushed westward in America’s early days, pioneer farmers could have been warned of the dangers of buffalo stampedes, Indian attacks and prairie fires.
But now it’s 2013, modern agricultural technology has been widely adopted and it should be much safer for the men and women who produce our food, fiber and fuel.
Shouldn’t it? Not exactly.
The agricultural sector remains the most dangerous occupation in the U.S., according to the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.
Last year saw 475 fatalities among the people who work in agriculture, fishing, hunting and forestry. That represents 21.2 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Within that cloud of bad news, however, is a silver lining.
Those fatalities represented a 16 percent reduction from the 566 fatalities recorded in 2011.
And the 566 fatalities in 2011 represented a 9 percent reduction from nearly 600 fatalities in 2010.
Those declines in fatal work injuries happened because more people are avoiding the hazards associated with the agricultural sector.
Those hazards are many.
Today’s farmers don’t have to worry about huge wild animals, but they do have to respect the dangers posed by their huge, high-tech equipment.
Today’s farmers don’t have to worry about stampeding bison, but they do have to worry about avoiding the cars and trucks they share rural roadways with.
Today’s farmers don’t have to worry about prairie fires, but they do have to worry about whether the hot engines of their combines could set fire to dry fields during harvest.
Ag safety groups have worked nearly 70 years to improve safety at harvest time. Some of their accomplishments include the establishment of slow-moving vehicle emblems, rollover protective structures for tractors and better emergency farm rescue techniques.
This year’s push is to continue to improve safety and rescue techniques for workers in agricultural confined spaces, such as grain bins.
With the harvest upon us, we encourage everyone associated with agriculture to embrace safe working habits. A bumper crop of healthy, uninjured farm workers should be everyone’s goal.
• The Morris Daily Herald’s editorial decisions are made by an editorial board led by general manager Bob Wall and editors Patrick Graziano and Mark Malone. Decisions are made in consultation with other members of the MDH staff as appropriate.