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Older farm workers have higher risk of being injured

Older farmers have a higher risk of being injured, especially if they spend a lot of time operating heavy machinery, according to a new study by the University of Alberta.

The study found that farm workers ages 45 to 64 spent six or eight more days per year operating tractors and other farming machinery compared to farmers 20 years younger than them. The study says that this behavior puts older farm workers at a higher risk of being in a farm accident.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed that 551 workers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry suffered fatal work injuries in 2009. Of those deaths, 278 occurred in crop production.

The CDC found that farm tractors are the most dangerous for older farm workers. Farm tractor accidents accounted for 2, 156 fatal occupational injuries during 1992 to 2001. They were also the leading cause of death in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, according to the CDC. The CDC report also found that during 1992 to 1997, farm machinery accidents resulted in 1,021 fatal injuries.

Safety precautions and factors that need to be considered for keeping older farm workers safe are hearing, vision, balance, strength and flexibility. These factors can impact a farm workers ability to work safely on farm equipment as well as check for safety hazards.

Researchers said that farms that have older workers need to be aware of specific safety hazards that commonly cause accidents and injuries among older farm workers. It is their responsibility to make sure all farm workers are safe. This includes educating and taking safety precautions to prevent farm accidents that are more likely to happen to older farmers.

Researchers listed the follow steps and safety precautions farms can take to avoid accidents and injuries:

  • Increase lighting in barns and shops
  • Equip stairs and steps with hand rails
  • Use hearing protection
  • Limit hazardous tasks to daylight hours
  • Equip tractors with rollover protection structures and seat belts
  • Make sure animal confinement areas have escape routes for workers

Source: Farm Futures, "Less-Strenuous Farm Activities May Lead To Higher Injury Risk," Nov. 26, 2012

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