Clemson Agricultural Safety

Safety Spotlight – September 2020

“I am currently working on a PhD in Plant and Environmental Sciences while working full-time at Savannah River Site as a firefighter/EMT. I grew up in the rural town of Starr, SC where I spent the majority of my time helping my grandfather on his farm. When I entered high school, I joined the FFA and began to work part-time for a large cow/calf operation in Iva, SC. In June of 2011, I was elected to serve as the State President for the South Carolina FFA Association, and in the fall of 2011, I began my journey at the greatest University in the Nation. Originally, I had hopes of going to medical school but also wanted an agriculture degree so I enrolled in Wildlife Fisheries and Biology. During my undergraduate career, I was involved in the Block and Bridle Club, Wildlife Society, FarmHouse Fraternity, and worked part-time for the Clemson University Fire Department. Since I grew up only 45 minutes away I would travel home most weekends (when there was not a home football game of course) to bale hay, feed cows, build fences, or just help out where I could. Somewhere along the way, I decided against going to medical school, so upon graduating in December of 2015, I began an MS degree in Plant and Environmental Sciences at Edisto REC in Blackville, SC. My master’s research consisted mostly of designing and implementing new technology for hay balers. I worked under the direction of Dr. Kendall Kirk to install and test a yield monitor on a hay baler that was developed by a prior graduate student. We also developed a weighing system for round balers equipped with a spring-loaded bale ramp. After graduating in December of 2017, I went to work as a firefighter/EMT at Savannah River Site. My primary reason for taking the position at Savannah River Site was the work schedule (24/72). The three days off between shifts allows me to continue working at Edisto REC, where I am currently working on a PhD in Plant and Environmental Sciences.”

How important is it for farmers and other people in agriculture to be safe?
PJL: Everyone depends on agriculture in some way or another. Farmers and agricultural workers have one of the most important jobs in the world, to provide food and other natural resources for everyone else. There are many tasks farmers perform that can be dangerous, no matter how “routine” they might be. In order for us to go home safe at the end of the day and continue to provide food and natural resources to everyone else, we must maintain a mindset of safety in everything that we do.

What do you think the biggest concern is regarding agricultural safety?
PJL: I believe the biggest concern regarding agriculture safety is complacency, especially for farmers and workers who have several years of experience. The more we repeat a specific task, the more comfortable we become performing it regardless of the dangers that might be associated, and the less vigilant we are.

What do you think is the best way to teach agricultural safety?
PJL: The best way to teach agricultural safety is through hands-on learning with props/simulators. There is only so much information that can be retained through lecturing. Take the grain bin entrapment simulator that Hunter Massey and his group are currently working on; a student will have a much better understanding of the danger of grain entrapment after actually feeling the amount of pressure that can be exerted on the body in just a few inches, rather than hearing about it from a lecturer. Although it is not feasible to create a prop for every topic of agriculture safety, having a few good ones to use in conjunction with lecturing will have a greater impact on the importance of safety.

What can be done to spread awareness about safety issues?
PJL: Newsletters like this one are a great way to spread awareness about safety issues, but I believe there is a lot more that can be done too. Presenting safety topics at field days help at the Research and Education Centers is an excellent way to reach the farmers and workers who are at the highest risk for an accident to occur. Agriculture Safety Days like the one held last October on the campus of John de la Howe are great for reaching out to high school students, and starting them off on the right foot with safe habits as they begin their agriculture careers. Lastly, but probably the most effective way to spread awareness about safety issues is through social media outlets, nearly everyone has a Facebook or Instagram, and these outlets can be used to share information regarding safety topics in agriculture.

Submitted by Perry J. Loftis

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