Clemson Agricultural Safety

Safety Spotlight – August 2021

Michael Plumblee

Hometown: Aiken, SC

Position: Corn and Soybean Extension Specialist

I am an Assistant Professor in Plant and Environmental Sciences at Clemson University and I am the Corn and Soybean Extension Specialist covering the state of SC. I work with farmers, Extension agents, and other stakeholders on issues related to corn and soybean agronomics, as well as conduct applied research to support and update recommendations on products, new technologies, and production practices. I grew up in Lexington, SC, where I worked around the Agricultural Irrigation Industry with my father. Throughout most of high school and college, I worked on my cousin’s farm in Newberry, SC, where we grew cotton, corn, soybean, wheat, bermudagrass hay, beef cattle, and turkeys. I attended Clemson University and majored in Ag. Mech. Upon graduating from Clemson, I pursued an M.S. at the University of Georgia in Tifton in Agronomy, where I worked with corn and peanut. From there, I went to Mississippi State University and completed my Ph.D. in Agronomy, working in cotton. Since May of 2018, I have been working for Clemson University at the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, SC.

How did you hear about the Ag Safety program?
I heard about the Ag Safety program through SC Farm Bureau at the Young Farmers and Ranchers Meeting, where Hunter Massey at Clemson University shared his involvement with developing programs and demonstrations about agricultural safety.

How often do you run across the topic of agricultural safety in your position?
I do not come across agricultural safety very much in my position. With pesticide applicators, safety is emphasized with applicator training, but that is about it. I do not hear or see much about machinery safety at all. Fortunately, over the last several years, the equipment has become somewhat safer to be around with safety switches, shields, etc. however, there is still a lot of older equipment being used in the state of SC.

Why is safety necessary?
Safety is necessary because that will ultimately lead to the longevity of agriculture. If we have a dangerous career, it will likely discourage others from pursuing jobs, it will increase regulation on machinery manufacturing and chemical/pesticide use and handling, and be an overall bad thing for agriculture in general. Consumers seem to want to buy products that were grown in good conditions, which also applies to safe work environments.

What do you think is the best way to teach agricultural safety?
I think the best way to teach agricultural safety is in person demonstrations of what can happen to you in specific scenarios and visually showing people the end results of accidents. Once you have seen the result of an accident, it is something that you will not forget.

How do you handle a safety concern among your employees?
I hold one on one safety training with my employees at the beginning of the employment to discuss the dangers of specific equipment and products that they may encounter while on the job. I am very upfront with them that something can happen very quickly and that you must always be alert and aware of your surroundings. More important, if you are unsure of something, always stop and ask for assistance.

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