If our agriculture industry is going to feed the world’s population, we should care enough to do it safely, humanely and sustainably.
That is the message of the Agricultural Safety Council of America (ASHCA), a not-for-profit coalition of agribusinesses, producer organizations and safety professionals that is planning and promoting actions to make agriculture much safer and healthier.
Although the total number of fatalities in the U.S. agriculture, forestry and fishing sector continues to decline, the fatality rate remains the highest of any industry sector, according to preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released this month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
National Farm Safety and Health Week (September 21-27) will no doubt spark a media surge in agricultural safety stories. ASHCA says let’s capitalize on that surge of awareness and focus on the following questions year-round:
- What are the best evidence-based strategies and practices for eliminating the major and most costly injuries/diseases among agricultural workers?
- What should our research priorities be, and who will pay for research?
- What educational systems are needed to ensure succession of current leaders in agricultural safety?
- What is the role of agribusiness and related industries (e.g., insurance, banking, legal) in sharing responsibility for safety of food and workers?
- How do principles of Corporate Social Responsibility and Shared Values come into play?
In this, the United Nations’ “International Year of Family Farming,” we should also ask: How does the global market affect our safety standards? How can we effectively guide food production and worker safety in developing countries?
ASHCA has taken tangible steps in addressing these questions through initiatives such as the 2013 North American Agricultural Safety Summit, and a safety grant program that recently called for a second round of project proposals.