Agriculture consistently ranks among the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In an average year, 516 workers die while doing farm work and each day about 243 workers suffer lost-time injuries. Agriculture, due to its decentralized nature and diverse structure, lags behind other industries in reducing the toll on its workers with a fatality rate that is eight times that of the all-industry average.

A new group, the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America, is working to close that safety gap. It is driven by farmers, ranchers and agribusiness leaders, and is the first of its kind focused on a national strategy to reduce disease, injuries and fatalities in American agriculture.

 “What’s encouraging is the combination of people coming together —  farmers and ranchers, organizations that represent them, insurance companies, equipment companies —  that all have this common interest and need,” says William Nelson, CHS Foundation president and the first elected chair of ASHCA. “What really impressed me about this group of people, along with their commitment to agricultural safety, is they are coming from exceptional organizations and are extremely dedicated.”

 ASHCA is building on the success of similar national initiatives in Australia and Canada. Organizations active in ASHCA include AGCO, Agri-Services Agency, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, CropLife Foundation, Farm Employers Labor Service, John Deere, National Pork Board, New Holland and Workers Compensation Fund-Utah. Administrative services are provided by the NationalFarmMedicineCenter at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wisc.

The Council’s mission: To proactively address ongoing and emerging occupational safety and health issues affecting U.S. agriculture. Goals include:

  • Pursue national strategies to reduce agricultural injuries and fatalities, based on reliable data and emerging issues.
  • Influence research priorities to rapidly identify best-management practices for worker safety and health that maximize cost efficiency and sustainability.
  •  Guide the development of effective delivery systems for safety and health through communications involving leaders representing producers, agribusiness, insurance, safety associations and others.

 Initial financial support to assess the feasibility of a Council was provided by the Farm Foundation. As of January 2008, ASHCA became a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded by members and sponsors.

A variety of membership packages are available for individuals and organizations. “Sustaining members” who join during 2008-2009 ($5,000-plus) will be designated as Charter (Founding) Members. For information, contact ASHCA, 1000 North Oak Ave., ML1, Marshfield, WI54449, visit www.ashca.org or call (715) 221-7270.

Source: The Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America