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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Pennsylvania’s many rural areas mean a thriving agricultural industry. While the plentiful farms are big business — and offer some of the most beautiful scenery in our state — they also present some unique hazards to those who work on them.

A local dairy farmer takes a moment from his busy day to have a picture taken in the barn.

Operating heavy machinery, handling livestock, applying chemicals and being exposed to the elements mean farm workers have one of the highest rates of injuries and fatalities of any industry in the country. In 2023, Geisinger facilities treated more than 300 patients for agriculture-related injuries. And the number could be even higher. Medical record data depends on patients giving details on how they were injured, as well as how the provider coded the visit for insurance claim submission. 

“Agribusiness is one of the leading industries in Pennsylvania, and unfortunately, farm-related injuries often occur. Every year, we treat children and adults injured while playing and working on farms,” says Amy Swarthout, trauma program manager at Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital.

Children on the farm

Kids will be kids. They run, hide, explore and play, whether in a suburban backyard or in a barn. And children who grow up on farms often start helping out at an early age. 

That’s why educating them about farm equipment and other hazards — and properly supervising them — are key to keeping them safe. The National Children’s Center for Rural and Ag Health and Safety recommends these top five safety strategies: 

  • Keep kids away from tractors.
  • Don’t let children into work areas unsupervised.
  • Make sure work is age-appropriate.
  • Eliminate hazards from kids’ work areas.
  • Have children wear personal protective equipment.
  • Train kids for tasks and be sure they can do them correctly.

Knowledge is power

To keep people in agribusiness on the farm and out of the ER, Geisinger sponsors an annual Agricultural Safety Fair at the Clinton County Fairgrounds. There, the trauma team, in cooperation with many other agencies, presents information and tips to stay safe.

“We hope to help prevent injuries and save lives by offering education on farm safety, emergency preparedness and how to stop life-threatening bleeding,” Ms. Swarthout says. The team’s exhibits include tractor stability, farm safety for kids, power take-off safety and ATV safety. The Geisinger Life Flight® crew also attend the safety fair, which is held this year on April 13 in Mill Hall.

By preventing injuries and teaching basic safety measures, Geisinger aims to nurture a safer farming environment in Pennsylvania. And that protects lives, preserves livelihoods and cultivates a thriving agricultural community.

A piece of old farm equipment sits in an empty field.

Common farm hazards

Tips to avoid injuries

Farm machinery:

  • Install rollover protection on tractors.
  • Provide user safety training.
  • Inspect equipment frequently.

Power take-offs:

  • Leave shields on during use.
  • Disengage before working on machinery.
  • Keep loose clothing, cords and hair clear.

ATV accidents:

  • Never carry a passenger.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Avoid paved surfaces.

Grain bins:

  • Turn machinery off before entering.
  • Use a lifeline system and harness.
  • Keep clear of operating augers.

Hay holes:

  • Install a hay hole cover made from netting.

Livestock:

  • Use gentle guidance to herd or move animals.
  • Be aware of the subtle signs of distress.
  • Plan an escape route.

Chemical exposure:

  • Store chemicals in their original containers, out of children’s reach.
  • Train workers in proper handling.
  • Wear gloves, eye protection or respirators as needed.
  • Wash up after handling chemicals.

This story originally appeared in PA Health, our quarterly full-color magazine filled with wellness tips, inspiring stories and more.

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