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New University of Iowa podcast shares stories, tips for farm safety and health
FarmSafe podcast discusses farm risks before they results in serious injury or death
ATV crashes, grain bin traps and tractor rollovers are all hazards of farming. But so are sleep deprivation and mental illness.
The University of Iowa College of Public Health’s new FarmSafe podcast combines near-miss stories from farmers, agricultural workers and emergency responders with tips for better health and safety on the farm.
“Everybody seems to know someone who has gotten hurt or killed on the farm, but we don’t talk about it as much,” said Kate Crawford, the podcast’s host and a postdoctoral public health scholar.
While “blood-on-the-field” stories make news headlines, T. Renee Anthony, a public health professor and director of the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, said she and Crawford want the podcast to discuss farm risks before they result in serious injury or death.
Nationwide in 2017, 416 farmers or farm workers died from a work-related injury, which is 20.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported in the most recent statistics available. Transportation incidents, including tractor rollovers, were the most common cause of death for farmers and farm workers.
Agricultural workers represented 6 percent of Iowa’s workforce in 2019, but 27 percent of work-related fatalities, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported.
Although farm accidents happen at about an equal rate during spring, summer and fall, Anthony said, farmers and farm workers spend a lot of extra time on the job during fall harvest — happening now in Iowa.
“Because there are so many people involved and they are working long days, we want to bring attention to all these machinery issues,” Anthony said.
When farmers get out their harvesting equipment — combine, grain cart, mower, hay baler — it may not have been used since the previous fall and needs some attention, she said.
“If we take parts off equipment to do repairs, we want to make sure we put them back on,” she said. “The classic case with farm equipment is the power takeoff shaft. If you don’t have that shaft guarded and you have hair, clothing or a glove get caught, it will pull you in. We’ve had a lot of farmers lose limbs or break their arms in multiple places.”
While the Great Plains center has been distributing farm safety and health information since it was created in the early 1990s, faculty decided to shift to a podcast because farmers spend a lot of time in vehicles, where they can tune into a 10 to 15-minute podcast.
The first podcasts available online are about ATV safety. One about kids and ATVs talks about four pieces of advice: Wear a helmet, don’t ride on the road, don’t ride as a passenger or carry a passenger and have the right size ATV. Children should not ride adult-sized ATVs.
Future episodes will hit on avoiding winter falls, animal production safety and farmers’ mental health. In the spring, they will look at emergency preparedness, such as what do you do when there’s a heavy rain? How do you help an emergency responder get to your rural location?
Crawford and Anthony are looking for suggestions for topics and personal stories of near-miss incidents that might have caused a farmer or farm worker to change his or her practices for improved safety.
“It’s not necessarily the injuries we want them to share, but what they are doing differently now,” Anthony said. “So they can inspire other people.”
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