December 2011 archive

Farm emergencies are focus of Sussex County Cooperative Extension

Agriculture can be a risky profession. In 2009, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported 551 fatal injuries in the agriculture, fishing and forestry injuries. Crop production represented 278 of these fatalities, followed by 141 fatalities related to animal production.  According to NIOSH website,  agriculture employs proportionally more workers aged 16-19 and aged 55 years or older. During the decade 1992-2001, agriculture was the leading source of work-related deaths. During this same time span, farm tractors were involved with 2,165 fatal occupational injuries. NIOSH does not collect serious or minor injuries since they are often classified as residential accidents.

Members of Bridgeville and Greenwood Fire Companies respond to a simulated overturned tractor at UD's research farm in Georgetown

Delaware’s agricultural safety track record for 2009 is excellent, with zero fatalities reported that year. It is a record Mike Love, safety agent with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, does not take for granted and intends to maintain.  For three days, Dec.9-11,2011, Love coordinated an intensive Farm Emergency Course for area responders from the Bridgeville and Greenwood Volunteer Fire Companies. The course was taught on the grounds of the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, classroom instruction at  the Bridgeville Fire Company, and included an extended tour of a large family dairy farm in Bridgeville. The effort was a partnership with UD and Penn State University’s Managing Agriculture Emergencies program.

“Our emergency personnel are virtual experts at responding to residential accidents and motor vehicle crashes,” Love says. “But farm equipment is different, heaver and uses different metals than most EMT’s are familiar with.

“While we think of a farm as a home, it is actually an industrial site with potential risks. This training gives them an awareness level and valuable hands-on experience,” Love says.

Throughout the weekend various rescue scenario modules were set up to simulate a variety of tractor and equipment mishaps, exposing rescuers with specific extrication challenges and provisions for patient care.  Modules included tractor rollovers and various farm equipment entrapment/entanglement. Different hazards that face workers in the agricultural sector were reviewed.

Methods to secure and stabilize equipment, such as in the case of overturned tractors, were stressed. Responders encountered various entrapped mannequins and received training on how to properly stabilize equipment before attempting rescue.

In addition to traumatic injuries, emergency personnel reviewed methods to safely free individuals from farm equipment who might become disabled due to other health issues such as heat exhaustion, diabetes incident or heart attack. Using volunteer patients, the exercise was an opportunity for responders to become better acquainted on handling patients within the limited spaces, complicated angles, and entanglements that are unique to agriculture and its equipment.

EMTs from Greenwood and Bridgeville remove a simulated patient from a combine

The training included an extended tour of a large dairy farm in Bridgeville. First responders were able to access specialized farm equipment, such as a combine and familiarize themselves with farm buildings.  Additional simulated rescues were performed on site. The tour was an opportunity for first responders to get the lay of the land of a typical Delaware farm and observe how farm vehicles operate on agricultural terrain.

Love invited his colleagues from Penn State to present their farm rescue program in classroom sessions. First responders practiced with modules that included patient care, critical pre-planning and decision making exercises, and a review of the unique challenges of specialized farm equipment.    “We are especially grateful for the well-established expertise of Dave Hill, program director for Penn State’s Managing Agriculture Emergencies and Eric Rickenbach, fire and safety instructor at Penn State for coming to Delaware and sharing their knowledge,” Love says.

For more information about agricultural safety and the Farm Emergencies course, contact Mike Love at the Carvel Research and Education Center, (302) 856-2585 ext 583

Eric Rickenbach, Penn State provides instruction to Sussex County responders

Additional photos are available at the Carvel Flickr site

All photos by Pete Stephens, volunteer firefighter, Bridgeville Fire Company.