Based on childhood memories of working on the farm and more than a decade of serving as a farm safety expert, Jesse LaPrade is more convinced than ever that avoiding farm-related injuries and fatalities is best expressed in one word: planning.
Another way to express it is that time-honored British Army adage: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Indeed, based on his own decade-long study of farm safety-related issues, LaPrade, Alabama Cooperative Extension System farm safety specialist, says injuries and fatalities almost invariably can be traced to a farmer’s insistence on getting as much done in the shortest possible time.
“Farmers get impatient to get things done, and they often don’t have quite enough labor to get the job done the way it should be,” LaPrade says.
In that respect, things haven’t changed that much.
“It’s been this way ever since I was growing up on the farm,” he recalls.
Yet, it often proves to be a recipe for disaster, LaPrade says.
Back to that issue: planning. As a rule of thumb, farmers should carefully schedule farm chores, allowing sufficient time to complete each project before moving on to the next.
“Think about things before you do them, and then you may end up getting it just right.”
As rules go, its sounds simple, but experience has taught LaPrade that impatience always rears its head at critical times of the year — the reason why he urges farmers to pause for a moment and consider the implications of that line of thinking.
“Before you try to play fast catch-up when you get behind, think about this: Is it really going to matter five years from now if you caught up or not?” he often asks farmers.
“Thinking of it that way puts all of these issues in the right perspective,” LaPrade says.
If this were a perfect world, LaPrade says farmers would be conscious of safety issues all through the day.
They typically aren’t, but that goes for just about everybody, he says.
“We all act this way when we drive up on a terrible highway accident,” LaPrade says. “People slow down and reaffirm how careful they should be about driving.”
Almost invariably, though, this attitude check lasts only a few weeks before drivers return to their old habits.
It’s the same with farming, LaPrade says.
“No matter how many horrific accidents I relate to farmers, I have to go back and do it again and again.”
Travel cutbacks have prevented LaPrade from making personal appeals to farmers and farm workers. To compensate, he’s compiled what he describes as a massive farm safety website that is updated every three months: http://www.aces.edu/farmsafety/. He urges farmers to visit the site as often as possible and to share the material with others as an incentive for renewing their commitment to farm safety.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System Farm Safety Management website features a comprehensive self-help training program that encompasses all facets of farm work.
The annual death rate for farm workers involving on-farm accidents is 20.3 per 100,000 workers nationally.
A major focus of the training is on tractor safety. Studies show that 46 percent of all farm fatalities are from the use of farm tractors and implements used with tractors. Nearly one-half of farm fatalities from using tractors involve the tractor overturning.