As Wisconsin farmers manage their daily work to help ensure our food supply, they face a variety of risks from heavy machinery to chemical exposure. Statewide, 25 percent of all workplace deaths in 2018 happened in the agriculture, forestry, fishing or hunting industries. That means a greater potential for injury or fatalities, if safety precautions are not heeded.
Those precautions are especially important in agriculture work as every day about 100 farm workers suffer an injury that results in lost work time, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Thankfully, new technology and modern equipment can cut down on some hazards. Here are some of the latest developments:
Tractor accidents have been the leading cause of death among American farm workers for 15 years, which is why tractor manufacturers have been working for years to improve safety technology. Recent developments include an on-board Data Screen Manager1 that minimizes the driver’s workload with a color-coded touch display that constantly displays clear messages about driving practices – green for optimal, red for significant improvements needed and yellow graduations in between. The system also evaluates vehicle condition to help owners make replacement decisions. Technology aside, it’s always important to review tractor safety guidelines to ensure the safety of operators and passengers.
Safety in the Sky
Today, thermal drones can help remove human exposure to risky environments and protect workers, while still accomplishing necessary tasks. Drone imaging and high definition cameras allow tracking and monitoring of livestock remotely to identify issues in real time. They can also assess crop health and remotely manage dangerous pesticide and chemicals.
Remote Sensing Technology
Grain storage bins can be hazardous when farmers climb in to check the quality of the grains and become stuck or buried. Each year, rescue workers respond to 911 calls for someone entrapped in a grain storage bin and the majority of these cases -83% occur in the Midwest. To avoid this risk, more farmers are using sensors which can be placed in grain bins and out in fields. Using a wireless system designed to remotely measure grain temperature, moisture or both, they deliver data directly to a mobile device anywhere in the world.
Farm MAPPER to Assist, Protect and Prepare Emergency Responders is an interactive, device-agnostic, web-based prototype developed by the National Farm Medicine Center. The free tool displays an overhead view of the farm and moveable map icons representing hazards, access points, water sources and other important information. The map is accessible to emergency responders in the fire station or en route by smartphone/tablet. This enables responders to efficiently and safely respond to farm emergencies. Farm MAPPER is one way that farmers can work together with their local fire department to pre-plan and map their farm, increasing the safety and health for farmers as well as responding fire/EMS departments. To learn more, reach out to trained personnel throughout the state by visiting the contact directory at rfdash.org.
FitBits for Cows
Cows need to be safe too and now they can via fitness trackers. Not unlike FitBits for people, these high tech wearables can be used to check cows’ vitals including their temperature, activity and behavior (eating, sleeping, lameness, gait). This helps farmers improve cow health and comfort. Companies like IoT dairy tech start up StellApps and Nebraska-based QuantifiedAg are making these wearables just for cows.
It sounds obvious, but simply ensuring that farmers carry their cell phones with them is one of the easiest safety protocols to follow as phones are geotagging virtually all of the time. Because farms can cover hundreds of acres and frequently have a collection of outbuildings, this can be the fastest way of rescuing someone who has been injured but can’t call for help.
Contact your Rural Mutual agent to determine the best insurance for your farming needs and to learn more about our farm safety initiatives.
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