Recognizing Hazards Helps Minimize Loss

The 2019 data for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the agricultural sector is the most dangerous in America with an equivalent of 23 deaths per 100,000 workers. Fall harvest time can be one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. For this reason, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week.

Angela Bunker, Senior Loss Control Specialist with American Family Insurance helps to effectively analyze risk exposures, loss trends and effectiveness of safety protocols and develop recommendations to reduce loss frequency. She shares more on recognizing hazards and minimizing loss.

Bunker conducts property surveys where she lists any items  that could possibly cause a loss in the future for a farmer. This helps provide an extra set of eyes for the rancher and save money and time. 

The most common hazards on an agricultural operation that Bunker sees is electrical issues. 

“We’re famous for this in the agriculture industry, we kind of bandaid things together a little bit. I will tell you, in the long run, let’s just hire a licensed electrician to come in and do it right so that we’re not electrifying things we shouldn’t or people that we shouldn’t,” says Bunker.

Another common hazzard she sees a lot is confined spaces. Farmers or their loved ones are climbing into bins and not always following safety protocols that they should have in place. 

Bunker says farmers should pay attention to safety measures for each situation. They need to think about employee training, reflective signs for equipment, slip and fall training, and crisis plans.

“In agriculture, I think we’re on the go, we’re on to the next thing and always thinking of what needs to be done in the future versus the task at hand. Sometimes we just have to take that breath and say, hey, we’re going to take two minutes to do this thing correctly and in the long run it’s going to save us 4 hours on the other end,” adds Bunker.

There are a number of resources out there on loss control best practices. It is important to utilize the support you have around you through your insurance company, extension, and agriculture organizations to make sure that at the end of the day, everyone is going home safe. 

Bunker adds, “Sometimes people say, how do you measure what you did today? I hope that I sent someone home without injuring themselves. Maybe somebody didn’t lose a finger, maybe someone didn’t slip and fall. Maybe someone didn’t have an accident because of some little tidbit that was sent to them in the back of their head while you’re training them or things like that.”

One of Bunker’s main goals is safety. Farmers can’t take every risk away, but she can help them mitigate those risks and make it that much more safe for each of the individuals who are there. Sometimes that’s as simple as making sure your employees know how to run machinery or complete a task.

Bunker shares that she had a farmer assume their intern could drive a stick shift vehicle. After waiting for the intern to show up to a designated field to work, the farmer realized he left too soon before the intern could tell him.

“My best advice for farmers out there, anyone on a farm or any type of agriculture division, that when you’re hiring someone, don’t assume. Don’t assume, even if it’s a farm kid, make sure that you’re saying, hey, do you know how to run this piece of equipment? Can we buzz over the safety details with you? Let’s just give you a quick demonstration,” says Bunker.

It is important to make sure employees feel comfortable to ask questions to help avoid risks. It is okay not to know everything or ask for a refresher when needed if it helps keep you and others safe. 

At the end of the day, everything a farmer does, they are feeding the world and it is an important job. However, they need to do it safely and with safety in mind, not just from a product end, but from a people and an industry end as well.