RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is joining the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety in recognizing September 21 – 25 as National Farm Safety and Health Week 2020. The third week of September is annually recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week as fall harvest time is one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. The theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week 2020 is “Every Farmer Counts”.
In addition to being two of the Commonwealth’s largest private industries, agriculture and forestry are also Virginia’s most hazardous occupations. Farmers and forestry workers are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, various cancers and high levels of stress associated with these occupations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 data indicated that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 574 fatalities, which includes 20 fatalities in Virginia’s agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sectors. Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries also have an OSHA Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rating of 23.4. The DART rating is used to determine how safe a business or industry has been in a calendar year in reference to particular types of workers’ compensation injuries.
“Virginia has a long agricultural tradition and thanks to the dedication and diligence of our farmers and agribusinesses, the industry remains the leading economic generator for our state. The work may be arduous, but those working in the agriculture and forestry industries share a passion for their work and producing quality products,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Please join me in recognizing Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries and let’s work together to prioritize their safety and health.”
A 2016 Centers for Disease Control study noted farmers, fishermen and forestry workers as having the highest rate of suicide than any other occupation.
“In addition to the physical challenges of farming, severe weather, low commodity prices, trade issues, increased debt and the coronavirus have added to the weight our farmers must bear,” said VDACS Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh. “Farm Safety and Health Week is a perfect opportunity to thank our farmers, spread awareness of the risks associated with working in agriculture, and promote safe and healthy practices.”
VDACS will use social media to post messages to promote agricultural safety and encourage the use of mental health resources. The social media posts will use the hashtag #EveryFarmerCounts. In addition, Commissioner Bronaugh will take part in an Agrisafe webinar to discuss efforts to address disparities in agricultural mental health.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS