We recently started planning for the health screening services at the 2013 Husker Harvest Days show this fall in Grand Island. About 30 health and safety professionals sponsor booths in the Nebraska Farmer Hospitality Tent that are a popular stop for show visitors each year.
In a way, those crowds taking part in the health screenings each year at HHD sort of belie the sometimes indifferent attitude about health and safety issues around the farm or ranch. The phrase "agricultural health and safety" doesn't always resonate with producers during the busy, stress-filled times on the farm or ranch. Perhaps it's the notion that something bad can happen to someone else, but not me.
Unfortunately, the term agriculture health and safety does hit home for families who've experienced tragedies due to accidents or who have had loved ones afflicted with an on-farm-related illness.
There are so many private groups and associations, as well as publicly funded programs, involved in ag safety and health that it's hard to wade through them all. More collaboration is needed among them, I believe. But many programs, like Nebraska AgrAbility and Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, do a great service.
University Extension safety programs addressing safety on the farm have gone by the wayside in many cases through the years as funding dried up. Funds have been eliminated to the point that even collection of data of farm fatalities and injuries is hampered. UNL Extension does help support AgrAbility and conducts farm safety programs for youth, but it like many other land-grant universities has not had a full-time safety specialist on staff for some time now.
It should be pointed out that over the past 40 to 50 years farm-related fatalities have dropped, thanks to better technology like roll-over protection, power shaft shields and better awareness. Unfortunately ag-related injuries haven't gone down.
So your occupation remains the most hazardous in the country. There are on average about 60 industry-related deaths in Nebraska each year and one-third of them occurs in agriculture.
I bring this up because I sit on an advisory board for a year-old, but not so well known research project based at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The Central States Center for Agricultural Health and Safety has some very interesting survey and research projects underway, some that involve unique approaches to rural health care and others that involve farmer participation.