Clemson Agricultural Safety

Safety Spotlight – November 2020

“I honestly had no agricultural experience (beyond being a lifelong horseback rider) before college. I started out at Clemson University as a Mechanical Engineering student and completed two years before deciding the major wasn’t the hands-on experience that I was looking for. My academic advisor recommended that I look into the Agricultural Mechanization and Business program. My first thought and response was, “No thank you, I don’t want to be a farmer.” She pushed me to check out the program anyway, stating that there was more to the major than just farming. I met with Kendall Kirk and the first place he took me was the AGM 452 lab (Mobile Power). One look at all of the engine parts laying around and I was hooked – it looked like my idea of heaven. I did an internship with Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) after my junior year at a grain elevator in Weldon, IL. That was my first real experience with agriculture and I loved it. I went to work for Golden Peanut after graduating. I spent my first year as an Operations Manager, running the day-to-day activities as a peanut warehouse. I then spent the next four years as the Health and Safety Manager at a pecan shelling facility (also with Golden Peanut). Unfortunately, ADM decided to close the shelling plant I worked at, which led me to find my current role of Process Engineer with Mars Wrigley. I’ve been with Mars Wrigley for a little over a year now, and I love it!”

How did you hear about the Ag Safety Program?
MB: I heard about the Ag Safety Program through Hunter Massey. We actually talked about the idea of one several years ago. I’m excited to see that it has become a reality.

How important is it for farmers and other people in agriculture be safe?
MB: Safety is extremely important, no matter what occupation you have. When it comes to farming, you have to be especially careful since it is not uncommon for people to work by themselves, often be far from hospitals, or in an area with little to no cell phone service. Since farmers have such a high level of manual labor to do, its vital they keep their bodies in good shape.

How often do you run across the topic of safety in your position?
MB: Every single day!!! At every job I’ve had, we have a daily safety topic and daily safety meetings.

What do you think the biggest concern in regarding agricultural safety?
MB: Heavy machinery operation is high on the list of concerns. Not only is powered industrial equipment inherently dangerous, its very easy to get complacent or over confident while operating it.

Is there enough being done about teaching agricultural safety across the state of South Carolina? Are there any suggestions on how it can be improved?
MB: The fact that there is now an Ag Safety program is very encouraging!! After being in the workforce and realizing how big of an impact safety has on everything, I think it would be valuable to add a safety class to the curriculum that covered OSHA and the relevant safety standards (CFR 1910).

Why is safety necessary?
MB: Obvious answer: so everyone can go home to their loved ones. For businesses, there is a massive financial impact as well – people don’t realize how expensive injuries are!

What do you think is the best way to teach agricultural safety?
MB: Teaching the potential outcomes of poor safety is huge, and I’ve found it seems to be the most impactful when a speaker shares a personal experience on how safety (or lack of) affected their life in a significant way.

Describe the impacts that a safety intervention can have on children.
MB: Building positive safety behaviors is easier, the younger and more impressionable they are! My dad was incredibly strict about seatbelts when I was a kid, but I can definitely say I have the best behavior out of all of my friends when it comes to wearing them.

What is the biggest way to leave an impression on middle to high school age children?
MB: This is where speakers with personal experience are huge. From high school, I always remember the hyper real drunk driving videos and mothers who had lost children in alcohol-induced car wrecks.

What can be done to spread awareness about safety issues?
MB: Talking about them! From the work-world, I learned a tool called a Risk Assessment, or Job Hazard Analysis, that is fantastic for identifying hazards. Before doing a job, we would have to fill out one of these forms, with the intent being that we identify and find ways to mitigate hazards and therefore prevent injuries.

What do you do to stay safe during the workday?
MB: I always make sure safety is at the forefront of my mind, and I am vigilant about staying tuned-in to my surroundings.

How do you handle a safety concern among your employees?
MB: Always stop the unsafe behavior immediately, and then talk to that person (the most important part). Tell them why you’re concerned about what they’re doing and how that may have affected them. Describing the potential impact of their actions in detail was always very effective. Instead of, “I’m worried you could get hurt,” I would try, “It scared me to see you cutting the bag that way, your hand was right in the line of fire. If the knife slipped, you could have cut your fingers off!”

What does your position do to mitigate accidents on the job?
MB: We are constantly looking out for safety hazards. Anything safety-related we find is always at the very top of the priority list, no matter how small. We also start every meeting with a safety moment to ensure everyone is always thinking about safety.

How are employees trained to stay safe on the job?
MB: Again, we start every meeting with a safety moment. We also have peer-to-peer observation cards that employees complete. The idea is that you get a card and then observe someone working, and then give them feedback on their safety behavior.

What is the biggest concern teaching adults about safety precautions?
MB: Safety tends to get crammed down people’s throats in the workplace. Instead of being valuable and meaningful, it becomes overbearing and monotonous. Be as creative as possible when it comes to mitigating safety hazards. There is some pretty cool technology out there, most of which came about by thinking outside of the box.

Submitted by Megan Betzel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *