RICHMOND—Some of the nation’s most vital workers face life-threatening situations every day.
“Agriculture, fishing and forestry workers encounter hazards daily that put their health and well-being at risk,” said Laura Siegel, health communications officer for the AgriSafe Network. “Through accessible education, we can lower their risk and help them to live long, healthy lives.”
AgriSafe is a nonprofit organization representing health professionals and educators who are striving to reduce health disparities in agricultural communities.
Recent data indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 573 fatalities in 2019—equal to 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. In 2021, 4.6 workers per every 100 were ill or injured on the job, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To remind agriculturalists to prioritize safety in the workplace, the U.S. has observed National Farm Safety and Health Week since 1944. It’s held during the third week of September, during harvest season—one of the busiest and most dangerous times of the year for farmers.
The annual observance returns Sept. 17-23 with the theme “No One Can Take Your Place.” This reminds farmers of their immeasurable value—providing food, fuel, fiber and a future for agriculture.
Daily themes include equipment and rural roadway safety, health and wellness, priority populations, confined spaces and brain health.
Becky Broaddus, a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Farm Safety Advisory Committee, said it’s important to help spread awareness of stress’ impact on mental health. Broaddus has led a series of mental health trainings for individuals who work with farmers.
“Being mentally healthy is important for everyone on the farm,” Broaddus said. “Anyone who is dealing with mental health issues may not be as physically capable of working or thinking clearly—both of which increase the chance of injury on the farm.”
Also slated for the week is a series of free webinars on relevant health and safety topics hosted by AgriSafe.
“While we provide year-round trainings virtually and in-person, National Farm Safety and Health Week is when we get the most attention and can make the greatest impact,” Siegel said.
AgriSafe will provide 10 free educational webinars Sept. 18-22 via Zoom with Spanish interpretation. Topics include ATV and chainsaw safety; infectious disease prevention on farms; cardiovascular health; mental health access for farmworkers; confined spaces on dairy farms; grain entrapment prevention and response; and managing stress and mental health.
For more information or to register, visit agrisafe.org/nfshw/.
Additional farm safety resources can be accessed through the VFBF safety website, which addresses topics such as accident response, agricultural hazards, mental health and rural road safety. Site content also includes links to safety resources offered by other farming advocacy organizations.
For a suite of resources addressing youth farm safety, visit cultivatesafety.org.