Workplace Hazards

The agricultural work site is replete with hazards that result in fatal and nonfatal debilitating injuries or illnesses (see Chapter 3). Proven methods can eliminate or reduce many types of hazards and help identify the causes of an existing health problem (see Chapters 4, 5, and 6). An inspection of the work site by a person who is familiar with the types of work, the work environment, the social environment of agriculture, and the associated risk factors can identify health hazards (8).

A productive agricultural site visit requires fundamental understanding of the potential factors for both chronic and acute injuries. Preprinted checklists provide a comprehensive group of questions to prepare for evaluating a particular work site or injury. You can find appropriate checklists by searching the Internet for "farm and ranch safety audit."

In addition to typical field and farm activities, agricultural work includes jobs in processing facilities such as canneries and packing sheds. These environments include aspects that more closely resemble typical industrial and manufacturing environments, except that the various pressures are often different, driven in part by maturity of the crop, the impending weather conditions, lack of a stable work force, and processing equipment that remains idle for most of the year and draws less maintenance attention than it should (9).

There usually are multiple causes or factors leading to an injury incident. Often the absence of one factor in the series could have prevented the particular incident from occurring. However, correcting all of the contributing factors will further reduce the likelihood of a repeated or similar injury (9).

Many insurance underwriters and workers compensation insurance carriers have safety information that they utilize and make available to the public. Organizations such as AgSafe (www.agsafe.org) provide certificate programs and materials that prepare persons to perform hazard identification and control activities as well as other injury and illness prevention plan (IIPP) development. Enforcement inspections are significantly associated with decreasing compensable workers compensation claims rates (10).

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