Perspectives On Line
NC State University Winter 2000 Contents Page Features Healthy Process Ready or Not, Here Comes the FQPA Good Coordination Critical Control A Feast of Information  Precautionary Measures Noteworthy News Awards Alumni Giving From the Dean College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Photo by Communication Services


Precautionary Measures

serious illness, severe injury or death to a farmer is too high a price to pay for the plentiful and inexpensive food and lumber we enjoy in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the toll is sometimes taken.

In North Carolina, an estimated 2,000 people suffer disabling injuries while working on farms every year, and, tragically, about 50 people die, according to Julia Storm, agromedicine information specialist with the department of toxicology. About 120 North Carolina farm children also receive disabling injuries, and as many as 10 die annually.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is determined that a hidden cost of agricultural products not be an injured farm family member or farm worker. In numerous ways through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the Agricultural Institute, the College prevents farm illnesses, injuries and deaths.

Dr. Robert McLymore, biological and agricultural engineering Extension safety specialist, says that changes in agriculture are resulting in more risks to farmers and their families. "These injuries or illnesses are a result of interaction with machinery, hazardous environmental conditions, lack of experience with equipment, operator fatigue and busy life styles," he says.

Photo by Herman Lankford

As new hazards — toxic waste and all-terrain vehicles, for example — arise, Extension and the Agricultural Institute devise strategies for helping farmers and their families stay safe and healthy.

The College’s efforts at promoting farm safety and health aim for:

• Students — who will take their knowledge to the farms where they will one day work.

• Farmers — who, because of time constraints, may not be up on the latest safety and health information.

• Rural children — who are impressionable and often are effective at precipitating changes in their families.

• Businesspeople, health workers and others — who are linked to agriculture and can have an impact on rural health and safety.

The College addresses farm safety — topics such as prevention of skin cancer, safe application of pesticides and protecting one’s hearing — from many angles.

In laboratories, research is done on pesticides, toxic compounds, fertilizer and waste; in the field, safe methods of handling animals and using agricultural equipment are explored; in Ag Institute classes, students are taught safety along with efficiency and productivity.

"I want students to develop a safety awareness that includes being aware of the condition of the machinery they are using and knowing their physical and mental conditions when operating the machinery," says Dr. Crowell G. Bowers, professor of biological and agricultural engineering who teaches farm equipment safety to Ag Institute students. "I show them the danger points of machinery, where they can be crushed, pinched or pulled in, and I talk to them about safe ways of working with equipment."

Bowers points out to his students that just because a piece of farm equipment has a safety guard, that doesn’t mean the machine is safe. "The safety guard may not work," he says. "It may be rusted or frozen. You can’t take it for granted. I emphasize the importance of cutting the power to equipment before working on it, and walking around machinery rather than stepping over it. These are precautions that are easy to overlook when you’re on a tight deadline or you’re tired. But they are so important."

Throughout the state, Extension exposes farm families to health and safety messages in almost countless ways, including literature, tapes, slide shows and short courses for adults, and farm safety day camps for children and teenagers.

The camps, held each summer in rural areas across the state, teach children safety measures to take around such potential dangers as snakes, railroads, chemicals, severe weather, farm machinery and electricity.

Teenage campers receive more advanced safety training regarding farm machinery and emergency and accident procedures. Farm teenagers often operate dangerous equipment such as tractors and chainsaws. Reaching them in the fun setting of a camp, where they are with friends and are open to learning, can be a life- and limb-saving enterprise.

In addition to learning CPR and first aid, campers learn what it would be like if they were to receive a disabling injury. Among the simulations of farm life with a disability, they attempt to work from a wheelchair and to hammer with just one hand.

Photo by Communication Services

Hyde County 4-H Extension agent Laurie Lewis says the demonstrations at camp make a powerful impression on the children. "For example, they’ve heard about grain bin safety, but seeing a [dummy] figure get caught in one and trying to pull it out, they really begin to understand the danger."

Lewis remembers one young 4-H’er who got a chemical safety kit at camp. "It had things like a safety mask and gloves in it," Lewis says. "He was so proud because he had received it; he said he’d never give it up. But then he started thinking that it might actually protect his father on the farm, so he gave it to him. That’s an example of how we see these young people really beginning to connect what they’ve heard with the realities of farm safety."

Extension’s Rural Health Program is beneficial to all farm family members. Through the program’s collaborative efforts with other organizations and agencies, rural families can get help for myriad difficulties they may face: depression, back problems, respiratory illnesses and so forth.

Current, research-based information is available on almost limitless farm health and safety topics — for example, protection of one’s water supply, rescue of farm accident victims and prevention of repetitive motion illnesses.

The research base will be expanded by the newly established North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, a collaborative venture between N.C. State’s colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Forest Resources; N.C. A&T State University’s schools of Nursing, Technology and Agriculture; and East Carolina University’s schools of Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences. Agromedicine links county Extension agents with rural physicians to increase the diagnosis and referral of agricultural illnesses and injuries. "The team approach to solving problems is what agro-medicine is all about," says Storm.

Extension’s N.C. Farm Safety Program provides health and safety training and educational materials through agencies such as emergency medical squads, agricultural equipment dealers and fire departments.

Extension also promotes the health and safety of farm workers as part of the N.C. Bilingual Health Group. This organization benefits the migrant farm families who help provide our bounty of crops by making certain that health services are accessible to those who speak little or no English.

n those unfortunate cases where a farm worker is disabled, he or she can get help adapting through N.C. AgrAbility, a program that provides direct services to farm workers to accommodate disability and physical injury, enabling the workers to continue maintaining their livelihoods.

Dr. Nolo Martinez, a rural health promotion Extension specialist, has cited successful AgrAbility examples, such as the addition of a special lift to a tractor to allow easier access to a disabled farmer. This eliminated the physical stress of the farmer’s having to climb in and out of the tractor dozens of times a day, thus allowing him to become more productive with less effort.

N.C. AgrAbility offers mechanical, vocational and educational services to disabled farmers. The program, which receives both federal and private money, is a collaborative venture of the Cooperative Extension Service, the Easter Seal Society of N.C., the Assistive Technology Project, the N.C. Farmworkers Project and the N.C. Farmworkers Health Alliance.

By providing nourishing and safe food, North Carolina farmers promote the health and safety of all consumers. And the College works to ensure the safety and health of farm families and agricultural workers and to keep the cycle of agriculture smoothly rolling along.



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