By Garrett Hawkins
It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a day or a week devoted to a cause or event. Some are traditional, such as Christmas or Hanukkah. Others, like the Fourth of July, remind us of key events in our nation’s history. Finally, some just make you scratch your head like International Ninja Day (December 5, in case you needed to mark your calendar).
But each year, one week in particular stands out to me as we think about the hectic nature of the fall season. Next week, the United States will observe National Farm Safety and Health Week for the 78th straight year. Dating back to the first proclamation signed in 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the third week of September brings awareness to farm safety. While equipment and technology on the farm have changed through the years, safety remains a key issue.
One of the most important displays in the MOFB building at the Missouri State Fair is the Roll Over Protection Structures (ROPS) exhibit, which provides valuable information about the need to retrofit tractors with this protection. Even despite the implementation of devices like ROPS, when you think about the number of hours farmers and ranchers spend in harm’s way, the most safety-conscious sometimes find themselves in difficult situations. Nearly 51,000 nonfatal injuries were reported in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries during 2019 alone, and, knowing how tough those in agriculture are, we know that number was probably underreported.
Now under the direction of the National Education Center for Ag Safety, National Farm Safety and Health Week provides us the opportunity to not only inform the general public, but also remind those in the agriculture field about the dangers lurking on the farm. Topics covering rural roadways, fertilizers and chemicals, and preventative safety measures for women and youth in agriculture highlight the upcoming weeklong opportunities, which can all be found at http://necasag.org.
I encourage everyone to take a few moments next week and make themselves aware of the importance of farm safety and health. Farming is a yearlong endeavor, but fall harvest time is one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. The end product is important, as is the quality of our work. Let’s be safe out there and make sure we get home to our families at night.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, Missouri, is President of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.