Diversity of Hazards

Few occupations consist of a wider diversity of tasks, environmental conditions, and hazards than agriculture. No single educational approach can address all of the potential hazards that a worker will encounter. Consequently, current educational efforts tend to address the greatest hazards and apply the principles of cost-benefit to modify public opinion about safety procedures and policy.

Contributing to the diversity of hazards found in agriculture are rapidly changing agricultural practices and the introduction of new technology on farms and ranches. When corn pickers were introduced in the late 1940s, there was a rapid rise in the number of hand-related injuries due to exposure to the unprotected husking bed. When combines were developed and became widely used in the 1960s, the incidences of corn picker-related hand injuries declined rapidly and became extremely rare. However, with the rapid increase in the exposure to shelled corn and on-farm storage introduced by the combine, there was a corresponding increase in entrapment and suffocations in wagons and bins used to transport and store the free-flowing grain.

Staying ahead of the rapid introduction of new practices and technology has been difficult for agricultural safety and health professionals, especially since resources have been so limited. Most of the responses have been more reactive than proactive, as in the cases of injuries caused by large round bales or exposure to anhydrous ammonia during its theft for making illegal methamphetamines. The widespread introduction of biologically modified organisms is another example of a practice and technology about which there remains uncertainty as to its potential for harm.

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