Farm Safety and Health Week
The third week of September is annually recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week, as fall harvest time is one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) recognizes Sept. 19 – 25 as National Farm Safety and Health Week to raise awareness and encourage the safety and well-being of all hardworking Virginians in the agriculture industry.
“The dedication and diligence of Virginia’s farmers and agribusinesses are why agriculture remains the largest private industry in the Commonwealth. National Farm Safety and Health Week provides the opportunity to thank Virginia’s agricultural workers and to promote safety for farmers and farm families to reduce the risk of injury, illness and death as they do their jobs,” Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring said.
In addition to being two of the Commonwealth’s largest private industries, agriculture and forestry are also Virginia’s most hazardous occupations. Farmers and forestry workers are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases and high levels of stress associated with these occupations. The 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 574 fatalities, including 19 fatalities in Virginia’s agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sectors. Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries also have an OSHA Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rating of 23.4. The DART rating is used to determine how safe an industry has been in a calendar year in reference to particular types of workers’ compensation injuries.
“Agriculture can be physically challenging, but an often overlooked component of farmers’ overall health is the mental burden of farming. Severe weather, low commodity prices, trade issues, increased debt and the coronavirus are stressors affecting Virginia’s agricultural producers,” Brad Copenhaver, VDACS Commissioner, said. “Farm Safety and Health Week provides the opportunity to promote safety and well-being for all Virginians engaged in the agriculture industry.”
Throughout National Farm Safety and Health Week, VDACS will post social media messages to promote agricultural safety and encourage the use of mental health resources using the hashtag #EveryFarmerCounts. Each day during National Farm Safety and Health Week, the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety and the AgriSafe Network will present two free webinars to promote agricultural safety and mental health awareness.