March 4-10 is Agricultural Safety Awareness Week, when Farm Bureau reminds farmers and ranchers to take time to be safe as they go about their daily tasks.

A little awareness goes a long way, and safety is always a good investment.

Any occupation that involves physical labor and the use of moving equipment has a built-in level of danger. So the farm or ranch has its share of hazards, just like any workplace.

According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report for injuries on the job in the year 2010, the workforce involved in growing crops or raising animals experienced proportionately fewer injuries than those working in sawmills or in iron foundries, but slightly more than people working in underground coal mines. 

Working in farming is more hazardous by that measure than working in construction, but about the same as a machine shop.

Statistics are also kept on accidents According to BLS, in 2010 some 312 people died while working in crop production and another 151 in animal production. Adding in people working in support activities (like soil preparation), 495 agricultural workers lost their lives on the job in 2010.

that involve fatalities. 

The stats cover only farms with 11 workers or more, so small family farms are not counted. Still, the tally is spread over about 900,000 workers, which represents a sizable portion of the agricultural workforce.

The annual cost of agricultural occupational injuries and fatalities has been estimated at upwards of $4 billion, and the real cost could be far more.

There is the direct medical cost, the loss of productivity and the disruption that occurs when a farm operator is put out of commission for any length of time. 

And it’s impossible to put a real value on a life that is actually lost. The emotional toll on family members and other workers is an additional factor not to be overlooked.