Clemson Agricultural Safety

Safety Spotlight – January 2021

“Upon graduation in May of 2017 from Clemson University, I was given the opportunity to do something I have aspired to do my entire life. Growing up in rural Georgia and South Carolina, farming was always something that struck a huge interest in me. During my time at Clemson, on top of majoring in Agricultural Mechanization and Business, I worked for Clemson University Research Farms where I got a lot of hands-on experience in mechanic work, operating machinery, and crop management. After leaving Clemson, I was offered a position as a farm operations manager at Double B Farms in Bamberg, South Carolina. Double B Farms specializes in cotton and peanut production. My daily farm duties vary depending on the season but at the end of the day, as a manager overseeing other employees, safety is always our top priority. Break downs and weather occurrences can be costly to an operation. Therefore, getting the equipment fixed and back running in a timely manner is crucial, but being in a hurry can also get you hurt. It is my duty as the farm’s operations manager to ensure that things are done in the quickest, but safest manner possible, as farming is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”

How did you hear about the Ag Safety Program?
MH: South Carolina Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference 2020

How important is it for farmers and other people in agriculture be safe?
MH: Farm safety can have many meanings. Safety amongst the farm can be for the crops, the equipment, and employees. If the crop is cared for in an unsafe manner, it can result in quality issues, therefore it can be dangerous to consumers. If equipment is neglected, it can result in hazardous situations which could hurt the crop, the machine its self, or worse, the person operating it. And finally, farmers feed and clothe the world, if a farmer is performing an unsafe task, it could be milliseconds before that farmer’s life is taken away.

How often do you run across the topic of safety in your position?
MH: Unfortunately, safety isn’t a topic that is verbally spoken of daily. Safety discussions normally come about when incidents occur or almost occur. We have to step back and decide for ourselves what we did wrong and how it could have been handled differently. Safety is something that I feel can sometimes be assumed or swept under the rug when producers are in a time-crunch situation.

What do you think the biggest concern is regarding agricultural safety?
MH: I believe the ag community is full of men and women who have been in the industry for decades. When you develop a way of doing something over so many years, you can sometimes get slack on the safest way to approach that task, whereas someone who is new to doing something is going to take extra precaution in doing it because the dangers are very obvious to them.

Is there enough being done about teaching agricultural safety across the state of South Carolina?
MH: Absolutely not. As mentioned previously, farm safety is normally talked about when accidents occur. It is extremely important to be proactive rather than reactive when someone’s life can be impacted by partaking in dangerous operations. I believe it would benefit all farmers, young or old, new or seasoned, to have safety refreshers multiple times a year. Farmers attend multiple meetings throughout the year for production purposes, such as seed meetings, Farm Bureau meetings, Clemson Extension meetings, etc. that they are required to attend to maintain their pesticide applicator licenses so I think it would be beneficial for them to hear a little ag safety tip, reminder, or update at each of those meetings.

Why is safety necessary?
MH: Doing something correct and safe could cost time but getting in a hurry can cause more trouble and more safety hazards.

What do you think is the best way to teach agricultural safety?
MH: Hands-on or personal experiences. Although it can be sad or scary to hear survivors tell their stories, it usually hits the closest to home for most. The Ag Safety open discussion that took place during breakout sessions at the SCYF&R conference last year will forever have a lasting impression on me. Three courageous farmers stood before a packed room of farmers and their spouses and spoke about three very different but very real near-death experiences they experienced. One spoke of a tractor/car incident that he survived, one spoke about how he was pulled into the combine and resulted in an amputated limb and the last spoke about a heart attack he endured without even realizing it due to extremely high farm and financial stress during the flood of 2015. Now when I move equipment from field to field or work on a machine during harvest, I think twice about what could happen because it could literally be a matter of seconds before a situation could be turned upside down, just as it did for the folks that told us about their experiences.

What is the biggest concern teaching adults about safety precautions?
MH: It is extremely hard to tell someone twice your age to be careful. The majority of our employees have been farming longer than I have been alive. Most of them have their own ways of doing tasks around the farm and changing those habits for their safety can be insulting to them. Sometimes learning from experience can be the best way to learn but, if a situation goes south too quickly, it could result in more than a learning situation.

Submitted by Madison Harrington

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