I’m not sure who came up with the phrase “rub some dirt in it”, but I’d bet that he or she was a farmer.
It’s no secret that farming is a dangerous occupation. It’s also no secret that farmers operate on strict timelines that leave little room for things like emergency room visits. Growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see my dad come in for dinner with bruises, scratches, or even serious lacerations that were rigged up on the fly with shop towels and duct tape.
Farmers like my dad aren’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an average of 167 workers in the agriculture industry suffer a “lost-work-time” injury each day.
Although not every farm injury requires a trip to the ER, it’s important to be prepared for the inevitable bump, bruise, scrape, or worse. Every farm should have at least one employee that is trained in CPR and First Aid. The Red Cross offers classes nationwide, with a certification option that is valid for two years. If a traditional class isn’t for you, online options are available. The Red Cross Adult First Aid/CPR/AED online class costs $25 dollars.
Of course, knowledge of first aid doesn’t accomplish much without easy access to a kit. While one kit per tractor would be ideal, farmers should at least make sure that there is a fully-stocked first aid kit at every field or work site.
What should a first aid kit contain?
According to a 2013 article from eXtension, the following items should be included in a large first aid kit:
- Sterile first aid dressings in sealed envelopes, in the following sizes:
- 2 in. by 2 in. for small wounds
- 4 in. by 4 in. for larger wounds and for compresses to stop bleeding
- Two trauma dressings for covering large areas
- Small, sterile adhesive compresses in sealed envelopes
- Roller bandages and 1 in., 2 in., and 6 in. cling bandages
- Rolls of adhesive tape in assorted widths (to hold dressings in place)
- Triangle bandages to use as slings or as coverings over large dressings
- Antiseptic wash
- Tongue depressors
- Bandage scissors and heavy-duty scissors to cut clothing
- Tweezers to remove insect stingers or small splinters
- Splints that are 1/4 in. thick by 3 in. wide by 12 to 15 in. long for splinting broken arms and legs
- Sterile saline solution
- Safety pins
- Ice packs (chemical ice bags) to reduce swelling
- A pocket mask for resuscitation
- Three small packages of sugar for individuals with diabetes
- Disposable rubber gloves and eye goggles
- An emergency blanket
If you prefer to purchase a pre-packaged first aid kit, Gempler’s offers one that’s specifically designed for farm injuries. It is available online for under $54 dollars.
In some situations, a first aid kit isn’t enough.
It’s important to be aware of any allergies that may lead to serious health complications. Bee stings, for example, can result in a severe allergic reaction or even death if not treated correctly. If a farm worker is allergic to bees, it’s important that they have an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) that is easily accessible if they are going to be working in areas where bees may be present. It’s also important that someone else on the crew is aware of the allergy, as well as the location of the EpiPen and how to administer it in case the person with the allergy is unable to use the pen themselves.
Beyond allergies, diabetes and hypoglycemia can also be a concern. As mentioned in the list above, your first aid kit should contain sugar packets or glucose tablets, which can be beneficial in the event of a sudden drop in blood sugar. According to a fact sheet from Ohio State University Extension, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and should be a particular concern for farmers.
As you prepare to hit the fields this spring, take time to make sure that you have a fully stocked first aid kit at every field or work site. Also make sure that you know if your employees or coworkers have any health complications – like an allergy, or blood sugar issues – that may require medical attention on the job.
Farming may be one of the most dangerous occupations, but first aid readiness can help keep a minor injury from turning into a major issue… without the paper towels and duct tape.
The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.