Posted by: Kelley Dees | November 4, 2011

Falls on the Ranch and Farm: Prevention and Major Causes

About one-third of all agriculture-related injuries nationwide are the result of falls from equipment or in the farm or ranch workplace. While it’s hard to predict when a fall will occur, in most cases falls can be prevented. Many falls happen when a rancher or farmer is doing everyday chores. The fall occurs quickly and usually unexpectedly when the everyday activity is combined with a hazard or an error in judgment.

The Problem:

The Wyoming-Montana Safety Council reports that falls result in more than 7 million visits to emergency rooms nationwide–more than any other cause of ER visits. More than 16,000 Americans died as a result of a fall in 2003. Falls, whether caused by a slip, loss of balance, or poor vision, are the leading cause of injury, disability, placement in nursing homes, and premature death in the elderly.

In the workplace, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports about 4.4 million injuries annually. About a third of these resulted in days away from work. More than 250,000 of these falls accounted for almost 20 percent of disabling workplace injuries. Needless to say, falls account for a large portion of injuries, and many of these falls are preventable.

The mechanism that triggers a fall on the ranch or farm might be a spill not cleaned up, tools laying on the floor of the shop, tractor, or combine, worn-out soles on shoes, hurrying to get something done, or an improperly placed ladder. These triggering mechanisms are hazards that, combined with an error in judgment, can result in an injury.

Prevention and Major Causes:

  • Cluttered workspace: Work areas and passageways should be kept clear. Objects should be returned to a storage bin or appropriate area after use. Also, children, toys, and pets are dangerous additions to work areas.
  • Uneven or slippery surfaces: Repair broken or uneven flooring. Cover slick floors with skid-resistant materials or paint. Oil or water spills should be cleaned immediately.
  • Stairs: Stairs should be well maintained and properly lit. Provide sturdy handrails. Keep steps free of ice, snow, mud, moisture, grease, and hay. Do not use stairs to store boxes, buckets, stools, or other items. Don’t carry a load that blocks your vision while going up or down stairs.
  • Ladders: While most falls occur on level surfaces, special care is required during “high up” maintenance or construction, such as roofing or painting, or any other task requiring a ladder. While its best to have someone hold the ladder, the following solutions can be used if that is not possible:
  1. Fasten roof ladders securely.
  2. The top three rungs of a straight ladder, or the top two steps of a stepladder, should NEVER be used for the feet.
  3. When working on a ladder, the person’s belt buckle should never extend beyond the side rails.
  4. Never try to economize with a damaged or shaker ladder.
  5. Follow the 4:1 rule: set ladders 1 foot out for every 4 feet up.
  6. Small tools may be carried in a tool belt, not in the hands. A better choice is to raise tools and supplies with a rope.
  7. Never raise or lower power tools by the cord or while plugged into an electrical source.

Check back on Monday for more on causes of falls and how to prevent them! Check back on Thursday for our post on learning how to fall properly to avoid injury.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from Wyoming AgrAbility 2009 Newspaper Insert: Preventing falls on the ranch or farm, by Dr. Randy Weigel.


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