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ND Brings Farmer Safety Back to the Forefront


Thursday, January 13, 2022   

2022 will see a renewed focus on farmer safety in North Dakota. A key position has been filled to focus on education designed to reduce accidents and fatalities on farms.

It's been more than 15 years since North Dakota had a farm and ranch safety coordinator through North Dakota State University Extension Services, a gap attributed to cuts in federal funding.

But with new money from the Legislature, Farm and Ranch Safety Coordinator Angie Johnson has been hired.

She said these days, producers face so many pressures, and it can be hard for them to think about slowing down and being extra careful.

"We are under Mother Nature's control, and also with the markets," said Johnson. "And so, how do you make really good, rational, safe and healthy decisions for yourself when you're under that kind of pressure?"

She said it's about more than just avoiding rushing on the job - things like healthy sleep habits also are important.

Johnson said it's hard to get true data on accidents in North Dakota, because so many family farms aren't required to report to OSHA. But in 2020, the state ranked second in the nation for injuries in confined spaces on farms.

Shane Sickler - a fourth-generation farmer and member of the North Dakota Farmers Union - was injured in an accident several years ago.

He said he had noticed the decline in safety outreach, and feels a rejuvenated program will help producers, especially those seeing higher turnover with their staff.

"We're moving so much faster," said Sickler. "Equipment changes a lot, so you have to adapt to the equipment more often. And with inexperienced help that comes - that you hire, maybe every year - you have to re-educate 'em about the equipment and stuff."

As she shapes prevention education, Johnson said she'll gather feedback from local extension agents on the types of accidents they're seeing too often in their counties.

She also encouraged farmers to not ignore mental health concerns, so they're in the best position to run a safe operation.

"Take advantage of the rural mental health services we have," said Johnson. "They're so, so much better - they're improving. Telehealth has been a huge factor."

Disclosure: North Dakota Farmers Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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