Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has proclaimed the week of Sept. 15-21 as Farm Safety and Health Week in Kentucky to encourage farmers and farmworkers to put safety first at all times.
“Farmers face all sorts of risks in the course of their work – machinery accidents, chemical exposure, unruly livestock, grain bin entrapment, severe weather, and many others,” Quarles said. “In Kentucky, we have made great strides toward making farming safer. But one farm fatality is one too many. And when a farmer is killed or seriously injured on the job, it’s not just the farmer who is affected – family members, employees, and business partners all suffer. Whether you are on the farm, on the road, or in the home, please take that extra step to protect yourself and those around you.”
In addition to the physical risks of the job, farmers also deal with mental stress and health issues. To raise awareness about the mental health resources available for those in need of them, this year the Kentucky House of Representatives passed House Resolution 184, which declares Sept. 18 Farmer Suicide Prevention Day in Kentucky. District 24 State Representative Brandon Reed led the effort to pass the resolution, and Commissioner Quarles testified in support of it.
“Farming is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding professions, but our farmers also carry a great deal of stress. It has all the ingredients for mental health issues, with hard, physical labor, great financial risks, and often uncertain returns,” Reed said. “The men and women who farm are serving our nation in the most fundamental way. The least we can do is take a moment during Farm Safety Week to raise awareness for the growing issue of suicide in the farming community.”
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s (KDA) Farm & Home Safety Program will conduct Pep Rallies for Life on Sept. 17 in Bracken County and on Sept. 19 in Green County. In a Pep Rally for Life, the local high school’s student body watches as their fellow students portray victims of a tractor or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident, and local first responders treat and load them into a waiting ambulance and helicopter (weather permitting).
The KDA’s Farm & Home Safety Program appears in an average of 115 events a year, including the National Farm Machinery Show; the Kentucky State Fair; the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia; and the Milan No-Till Field Day in Milan, Tennessee. The program features a rollover tractor simulator to demonstrate how a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and seat belt can save a tractor operator’s life in the event of a rollover. The program also offers safety exhibits for ATVs, grain bins, lawnmowers, power takeoff (PTO) machines, and anhydrous ammonia.
The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center reported that 14 Kentuckians engaged in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting died on the job in 2018, compared with 13 in 2017 and 50 in 1995. Of the agriculture-related fatalities, four died in ATV accidents, three were killed while operating a tractor, two died while operating heavy farm equipment, and one died in a fall from a barn loft. The average age of the decedents in the category was 56, the report stated.