THE DANGERS OF DAIRY FARMING
arming is a very rewarding way of life for many; however, it is a lifestyle that unfortunately has many risks. Those risks can come from physical dangers in every area of the farm to psychological dangers as well. There are many hazards to those of all ages associated with farming, and unfortunately farming families grow so acclimated to their daily routines that some of these hazards are often overlooked. Fatalities and injuries occur with farm machinery and equipment, animals, storage structures such as manure pits and silos, logging accidents and more. It is important not only for farmers and their families to stay informed of the potential dangers around the farm, but also for those that spend any amount of time visiting farming operations, as accidents can happen in a matter of seconds!
When it comes to machinery on farms, staying vigilant and familiar with the equipment being used is essential. All members of the family should be trained in equipment safety, PTO (Power Take-off) safety, starting and stopping machinery, and how to stay out of blind spots. When small children are on the farm, learning equipment safety could mean life or death. Of the 137 Pennsylvania fatalities between 2015 to 2019 in those 5 years old and under, 92% were results from exposure to farm equipment, tools and hazards while not engaged in farm work. Vehicles were again a leading source of fatalities in 2020, accounting for 14 of the 39 fatalities. Only three of the vehicle fatalities occurred with highway vehicles, with tractors and ATVs being especially hazardous.
Manure pits on farms are one of the most dangerous areas where extreme caution should be taken. Not only do they present drowning and entrapment situations, but the gasses at high enough levels can be dangerous to animals and humans. Gasses produced from decomposing manure include hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen sulfide is the most dangerous out of these gasses and can result in death after just one or two breaths at high levels. This gas can be detected by a distinctive rotten egg odor at very low levels. However, when manure in pits is agitated or being pumped, hydrogen sulfide can increase to dangerous levels where nerve cells inside the nose become paralyzed and those odors cannot be detected. In addition to following safety protocols around manure collection systems, there are gas detection meters that are available for use for those working around manure pits to help detect these dangerous gases. Gasses from fermenting feeds in upright silos are also very dangerous and anyone working around these structures must be very cautious to the hazards associated with them. Individuals can become unresponsive in a matter of seconds while working around both manure pits and upright silos, so extreme caution must be practiced, and farmers should never enter these structures without personal protective equipment and should always inform others of their whereabouts. Bottom of Form
Dairy farming means so much more to farmers than the public realizes. Farmers take pride in their work, achieving good crop yields, raising healthy and productive animals, and providing safe and healthy products for human consumption. What many may not realize is the stress and dangers of managing and achieving those goals comes with a personal toll as well. If you are concerned about the mental health of anyone that you may know, please don’t hesitate to talk to them, offer assistance if you can, and to reach out to any of the resources that are available. There are numerous helplines available, so please keep these numbers readily available so they can be a valuable resource in a time of need
- AgriStress Helpline: 833-897-2474, available 24/7.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Dial 988 (effective July 2022) or 800-273-8255 or text GO to 741741 for those in need ofemotional support day or night.
- Rural Response Hotline: Call 800-464-0258 Monday to Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Free personal counseling and financial/legal services.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Call 800-662-4357