The Utah Farm Bureau is focusing on farm safety. This week has been designated as Agricultural Safety Awareness Week. The bureau identified safety risks while focusing on the theme, “No One Can Take Your Place.”
Hearing, respiratory and fire can have an impact on farmers in Utah, along with general health and impaired driving. A.J. Ferguson is the Vice-President of Farm Safety with Utah Farm Bureau. He said it’s not alcohol that’s the problem, but over-the-counter prescription drugs.
“Unfortunately in farming, we’re still prone to drug overdose and drug abuse,” Ferguson said. “An impairment that can lead to a tragic incident with them colliding with another vehicle on the roadway or even running over someone on the farm.”
Younger farmers are joining the workforce, but the majority of people working in agriculture today are between the ages of 55 and 75. Ferguson said along with an increase in age comes an increase in health problems.
“Farmers that are older are traditionally strong and they don’t want to admit that there’s a problem,” Ferguson said. “To go to the doctor can actually be seen as a weakness.”
Ferguson said everyone living in rural areas, not just farmers, should make safety a priority by watching tractors traveling on paved roads from field to field. They are slow and can hold up traffic.
“There seems to be that one moment when they try and jump the gun and try and get around the vehicle, then the farmer is making the turn onto their property,” Ferguson said. “The farmer will actually start to veer right, and people start to feel like, ‘oh he’s pulling over so I can pass him!’ When they’re actually veering right so they can make the turn onto the next field.”
And said Ferguson that’s where the driver and vehicle can T-bone the tractor.
“All too often on the farms we as farmers fail to recognize that probably that the biggest implement on the farm is actually the farmer,” Ferguson said. “I love the theme for this year when it says, ‘No one can take your place.’ When you think about a farmer who's been on the land for twenty plus years, they know by feel, they know by look what’s happening on that land. They’re a resource and a knowledge that no one else has. We don’t want to lose that, we want to be able to pass that on to the next generation.”
The Utah Farm Bureau took over the farm safety program in 1988 when there were 18 casualties a year. In 2017 that number was down to three.