by Julie Cushine-Rigg
Farming presents a host of potential hazards, but with safety at the forefront and agencies like Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), the New York Farm Bureau (NYFB) and the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), much of what could go wrong is avoided.
“Although it might seem expensive or time consuming to eliminate hazards on farms, or to make your farm safer, it’s not that hard because we can make it easier,” said Julie Sorensen, PhD, Director of the Northeast Center (NEC) of NYCAMH about the message she and the organization would like to get across to farmers.
NYCAMH was established in 1988 by the New York State Legislature, and it has been helping farmers to be safe in throughout New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire and Maine.
Most services provided by NYCAMH are free and their menu of programs offered has expanded over the past few years. Topics of training include assistance with respirator fit tests, animal handling, pesticide safety, and sharp tool safety. The organization takes requests for training via phone or email and has three-full time in house trainers and 10 contract trainers, some who speak Spanish. Farmers can call or email NYCAMH via contact information on their website at
Following up with farmers to help them continue to be safe is also a priority of NYCAMH, which Sorensen says is helped by their database.
“We have all of the information in our database…the farmer can just call us and say, ‘Send me one of those guards I got last year,’ even if they don’t remember exactly what they got, and we can deliver it for free. We make that easy,” said Sorensen.
There are also programs that the organization can connect farmers with that provide rebate programs and upgrades for some equipment.
NYCAMH helps farmers to identify things that could cause injury, illness and death, and provide solutions for preventing those situations. They also provide farm safety walk-throughs, which pinpoint what needs to be addressed and then connect farmers with the right people and equipment so that the changes needed can actually happen.
“That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to help them implement safety measures. We want to make farmer’s lives easier, we want them to be healthier and productive and to continue doing the important work they do and we can give them one less thing to worry about… just call us and we’ll be there to help,” said Sorensen.
The NYFB also helps farmers recognize what safety measures need to be taken.
“We work with farms to be OSHA compliant… and we host mock inspections on farms where we do walk-throughs on what to look for,” said Steve Ammerman, Public Affairs Manager of NYFB. He added that they partner with NYCAMH not only as an advocate for them and supporter and advocate for funding, but also by helping with particular training which looks at how to prevent tractor rollovers.
The mock inspections serve many purposes, one of which is to look for proper signage for dangerous equipment or alerting people to tripping hazards. NYFB then works with farms on how to remove those hazards.
With agritourism on the rise, there are a lot more visitors to farms than in years past. One of the ways NYFB is helping with that change is to address inherent risk to farm visitors. Ammerman said that an inherent risk form was passed in the legislature in October 2017, which encourages farmers to work with their insurance companies to look for potential issues on the farm, and alert visitors to them.
“This can lower liability insurance costs. New York is one of last states to have this,” said Ammerman. He added that the legislation includes “things that farmers can’t always be responsible for…like (visitors) tripping on a vine in a pumpkin patch or being thrown off a horse” and gives farmers a way to safeguard themselves.
To reach and get information out to farmers, NYFB has recently hosted a series of talks on Facebook that bring to attention things like having a stocked first aid kit, safeguarding barns from fires by being aware of frayed wires and how close heating instruments are to bales of hay or other flammable materials.
One of the most important aspects about farm safety, Ammerman said, is that the general public needs to be aware of them too. Things like tractor and road safety, making sure there is proper signage on rural backroads so that drivers traveling those roads are made aware of the farmers presence, and to use a slow rate of speed. Overall there needs to be respect by the public for large equipment by obeying the signs and not going around the equipment.