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Week Emphasizes Safety On Farm
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Sept. 2 was a normal day for two Mississippi families until separate farming accidents killed two tractor operators.
An Ackerman man was mowing the side of a pond when his tractor flipped over. Without a roll-over protective structure, ROPS, and seat belt, he was pinned beneath the tractor and died.
In Madison, a man was working on the family farm when his tractor went into a culvert and flipped over on him. Without the safety features on the tractor, he also was killed.
Nationally, agriculture is a dangerous industry, killing hundreds and seriously injuring thousands each year. To raise awareness, Sept. 21 to 27 has been named National Farm Safety and Health Week.
Herb Willcutt, extension farm safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said tractor accidents kill 12 to 13 Mississippians each year. Another 12 to 13 die from other types of farm equipment.
"Tractors and farm machinery are the No. 1 source of death on the farm," Willcutt said. "About one in four times a tractor or machinery is involved in an accident, it is fatal."
The safety specialist said for every death, probably three more are severely injured. Most of these are home owners or those maintaining a rural homestead.
"Most deaths occur between noon and 8 p.m when people are in a hurry and trying to do a job in 30 minutes that may require two hours," Willcutt said.
Dr. Dannie Reed, Choctaw County extension agent, said farming tragedies will continue to be common unless people change the way they work.
"Accidents can happen and people need to stay away from potentially dangerous situations," Reed said. "Most hours spent operating a tractor are enjoyable and safe, but the unsafe moments measured in seconds are risking their lives."
Used properly, tractors with seat belts and ROPS protect drivers in roll-overs. All new tractors are equipped with ROPS, and many manufacturers offer retrofits for older models.
Passengers on tractors are in a dangerous position and should not be allowed to ride, Willcutt said.
Chain saws are common power tools that can be one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment. Each year, many people are seriously injured using chain saws for cutting and clearing.
Gasoline is another hazard around houses and farms.
"One gallon of gasoline has the potential explosive power of 30 sticks of dynamite," Willcutt said.
Always keep gasoline in safe containers stored away from the house. Only refuel when engines are throughly cool, as gasoline vapors can ignite on sparks from the hot engine.
New machinery today comes equipped with safety features designed to protect operators, but caution is still needed.
"These safety interlocks were not put on to be an inconvenience and should never be defeated," Willcutt said.
About 95 to 99 percent of all accidents result from personal carelessness and could be prevented with forethought. The other factor is people think they can do something, but don't quite make it, Willcutt said.
"Don't take chances," he said. "The time saved is not worth the risk taken."
But when farmers become hurt or disabled, a program new to Mississippi is ready to help. Through adaptive technology, support groups and rehabilitation services, AgrAbility seeks to keep injured farmers, farm workers and their families working on the farm.
Contact the local county extension agent for more information on this program.