By Gary Brock
XENIA — Farming is a stressful occupation. And it also is dangerous. Recent studies by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prove these hazards.
Agriculture accounts for 25.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, twice the number of deaths in the next highest risk industries—mining, transportation and warehousing. The agricultural death rates in almost every survey published are higher from April through September, the peak growing and harvesting season. In crop production alone, 245 deaths were reported in the U.S. in 2011.
Among the potentially life-threatening farm hazards OSHA lists are farm machinery and equipment, agricultural chemicals, grain bins, livestock handling, sun and heat, toxic gases, silos, wells and tractors.
From what I see, it is especially an issue with tractors. And there are even greater risks for young people who operate these tractors.
That’s why there are safety courses being held around Ohio to educate farm youth about the hazards of tractors and other farm machinery.
In Hardin County, there is a “Tractor Safety and Machinery Operation” certification course for youth has been scheduled for Wednesday evenings from Feb. 8 through March 15 through OSU Extension. March 22 is a possible make-up day in the event of inclement weather. The six sessions will go from 6-9 p.m. in the OSU Extension office Spark Lab, 1021 W Lima Street, Kenton.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Agricultural Hazardous Occupations Orders (AgHOs) regulation prohibits 14 and 15-year-olds from operating farm tractors and attached powered equipment unless (1) they are working on a farm owned/operated by their parent or legal guardian, or (2) the youth has successfully completed an approved safe tractor and machinery operation-training program.
Programs like this help address the issue of farm equipment safety and accidents on the farm.
Ohio Days Lunch
Another great program is the new Ohio Days lunch initiative started in the Columbus City Schools District.
Back in January, the school district, City of Columbus, Ohio Dept. of Education, and Ohio Dept. of Agriculture Director Dave Daniels held a “kickoff” event for the new program.
Starting last month and running one day a month through the year, the district will offer students in all 110 of their school cafeterias a full lunch dish of Ohio-sourced foods. This is a great idea, and one I think should be expanded to school districts across the state.
I know that some rural Ohio districts are already doing something like this — bringing in fresh, locally-produced foods for their cafeterias. I think this program should be expanded even more, bringing the concept of “farm to cafeteria” to all Ohio districts.
This will be great for Ohio’s produce farmers and great for the students, as well. Knowing “where our food comes from” is vital to all students in school districts both urban and rural.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.