It's National Farm Safety and Health Week — and you can get involved

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You are cordially invited to join us as we honor National Farm Safety and Health Week! From September 17-23, SIU Medicine is doing its part to promote physical and mental wellness among farmers and their families. 

We recognize the crucial role that farmers and agricultural workers play. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a single U.S. farm feeds as many as 166 people annually both home and abroad. With a growing population, it's clear that the agricultural sector will continue to have a major influence over the global community's well-being. 

We also recognize that members of the farming and agricultural community face unique stressors—not the least of which is a demanding and often dangerous work environment, especially during the busy harvest season that's upon us. For this reason, now is a perfect time to pause and reflect on things you can do to prioritize your safety and health. When it comes to serving your community, your clients and your family, no one can take your place#NFHSW2023

Here are five areas of farm safety and health to reflect on throughout the week. 

Monday, September 18: Equipment and Rural Roadway Safety

The agricultural sector is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous in America—and unfortunately, disabling and fatal injuries are common. The good news is that many of these injuries and accidents are preventable. 

Take Action: 

  • Use a mindful equipment check. Before using any piece of equipment, spend a few moments in focused attention on the item—however big or small. You can use this time to do a brief inspection to ensure all parts are working properly, or simply make sure you're mentally "on" and ready to operate the machine. This simple practice can enhance safety awareness, reduce stress, prevent accidents and improve your productivity and focus.
  • Don't skimp on basic road safety etiquette. Always wear your seatbelt, respect the speed limit, don't operate heavy machinery while distracted or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and always use appropriate safety precautions when hauling over-width or overweight loads. 


Tuesday, September 19: Health and Wellness

Farmers experience many of the same chronic health conditions as the general public—high blood pressure, musculoskeletal problems and respiratory diseases. Compared to workers from other sectors, farmers also experience relatively high rates of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorder and suicide.

Farmers, we see how hard you work—and we want you to know that you deserve to feel your best as you do your best to provide for your family and community! 

Take Action: 

  • Give your hearing a hand. Farms and ranches are noisy places! Don't take your hearing for granted—always wear appropriate hearing protection.
  • Hydration check-in. Dehydration detracts from your ability to focus and stay energized at work. So, keep a water bottle with you and set a goal to drink a certain amount of water throughout the day. Be aware that your hydration needs increase depending on factors like hot weather and high activity levels. 


Wednesday, September 20: Priority Populations

Farmers and ranchers often face feelings of isolation and loneliness—and not just because they tend to live in rural areas. It can be hard for people outside the farming community to fully understand what farmers go through, which may leave farmers feeling disconnected and underappreciated. Plus, when the stresses of farming intensify (hello, harvest season!), many farmers also start to feel disconnected from their loved ones, too. 

Take Action: 

  • Make it a date. Grab your calendar and find time this month to go do something fun with your spouse, a good friend or even your whole family. It's easy for quality time with loved ones to fall off the to-do list when there's so much else demanding your attention. But by prioritizing time with the people you care about, you can "refill your cup" and give yourself a much-needed dose of relaxation, energy and gratitude. 
  • Community connection circle. Reach out to your fellow farmers and spend some time together to connect, share your experiences and get support from people who understand the unique gifts and challenges that your lifestyle brings. This may sound unrealistic during harvest, but remember: it is very important to stay connected.


Thursday, September 21: Confined Spaces

Confined spaces on farms and ranches are everywhere—examples include grain storage facilities, silos, cisterns and septic tanks, dump pits, feed mixers and bulk transport vehicles, just to name a few. With limited or restricted means of entry and exit, confined spaces are generally not intended for continuous or prolonged occupancy and can prove hazardous unless appropriate precautions are taken. 

Take Action: 

  • Enter with care. Before entering any confined space on the farm, take a moment to review any possible hazards, such as chemical reactions, entrapment and overheating. Ensure that everyone on your farm—and especially children—understands the necessary safety precautions, including who is permitted entrance (and when) and who isn't. 
  • Breathing space meditation. The next time you have three to five minutes to spare, sit comfortably in a place where you won't be disturbed, close your eyes if you want and simply bring your attention to your breath. No problem if your mind wanders away in thought—simply bring your attention back to your breath as soon as you notice that your focus has strayed. Mindfulness activities like this can help tame stress and anxiety. Remember: this only takes five minutes and may help to reduce stress during these very busy times.


Friday, September 22: Brain Health

As a farmer, your lifestyle demands a lot of mental focus. From making big decisions to operating heavy equipment to solving problems in real-time, your brain power is truly one of your greatest assets! 

Take Action: 

  • Catch those Zzz's. Did you know that waste products get "washed" out of your brain as you sleep? This nightly "clean-up" of your brain helps explain why good sleep has been shown to improve mood and memory and may even protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's dementia
  • Enjoy mental stimulation games. Regularly engage in your favorite brain-stimulating activities, like crosswords, puzzles or riddles. Not only good for keeping your mind active, these activities are also fun ways to unwind.  There again, during harvest and other busy times it may seem crazy to pause for a game.  Remember the benefits of a break.


Invest in your health and wellness—so you can reap what you sow!

Are you looking for a health care provider who can support your health goals while also understanding your farm family's unique needs? Find a doctor today at SIU Medicine or explore additional services through SIU's Farm Family Resource Initiative.

Karen Leavitt Stallman
Ag Resource Specialist

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