Case Study: Lone Worker Dies after Fall from ATV

oday I’d like to present a case study involving a lone worker and a fall from an ATV.  The case comes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an independent organization that promotes worker safety in the United Kingdom. Their website includes a few dozen agricultural injury case studies (click here to see their ag case studies).  I chose this case to take a look at ATV safety and some of the dangers of working alone on the farm.

The Situation: A 53 year old gamekeeper severely injured his pelvis by falling from an ATV. He survived the initial injury, but was unable to call for help. It took 52 hours for someone to notice that he was missing, and he was found dead 200 yards from the scene of the initial injury.(click here to see original case description)

Risks Involved:  ATV Operation, working alone, lack of communication device/check in plan.

Risk Mitigation Strategies:  There are two main issues involved here, which are the risks of operating an ATV and the risks of working alone.  Since this was a fatal case, they weren’t able to provide much of a description of what caused the initial injury. There are a lot of things that can contribute to ATV injuries: terrain, excessive speed, improper loading, mechanical issues, training issues etc. I found an article by OSHA that summarizes some of the main hazards of ATV use and how to avoid them. Click here to see it.

The other, and in this case possibly the greater issue is that he was working alone in an isolated area, had no way to call for help, and there was no check in plan to prompt a search when he didn’t come back. This incident took place in 2004, so cellphones weren’t as universal as they are now.  However having a cell phone doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to call for help. Phone issues like low battery or poor signal can prevent you from making a call and if your phone breaks or if you’re unconscious as a result of the incident you won’t be able to call either.  That’s why the most important thing you can do is to avoid working alone whenever possible, and if you do work alone, let someone know where you’ll be and what time you expect to be back.  There are also a quite a few smartphone apps that can help protect lone workers. The systems use GPS to keep track of worker locations and can set up an emergency call button on the users’ phones. Some of them can also be set up to prompt users to check in by pushing a button on their phone at certain times, and call for help if the button isn’t pushed. Click here to see the top 10 lone worker apps.

The bottom line:  If you own an ATV, make sure that you and anyone else who drives it knows and follows all safety procedures. Try to avoid working alone as much as possible.  If you do work alone, let someone know where you will be and when you expect to be back. Cell phones can be a useful tool when working alone, but they can fail so make sure they’re not your only line of protection.

Winter Weather Hazards: Slips, Trips and Falls

I think pretty much everyone has had the experience of slipping and falling on ice.  When I did my pilot study for this project, at least 5 of the 27 injury reports I collected had to do with slipping on ice or snow. Slipping on icy surfaces can be more dangerous on the farm than it is in other places.  If you combine a slip on the ice with carrying heavy loads, using tools, being near running equipment, working with tools,  or working with large animals, the potential for severe injuries goes up.

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The best thing you can do to prevent slips and falls is to make sure that the areas where people walk and work are cleared of ice and snow  and to use sand or salt for extra grip on surfaces. Be particularly careful about keeping stairways and elevated work surfaces clear.  One neat idea I’ve seen for salting and sanding is to use one of those lawn and garden  broadcast fertilizer spreaders to spread salt and sand. It makes the job go faster over large areas, and results in an even distribution. Putting shovels and buckets of salt or sand near where they need to be used can be a reminder to clear and salt walkways and  makes it more convenient to do the job.

If you have to walk on a slick surface, boots with thicker treads or ice cleats over boots can also help you get a grip .Using short steps with your center like a penguin can also help prevent slips and falls.

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The best way to avoid fall-related injuries is to prevent the fall from happening.  However, if you do feel yourself falling there are a couple of things you can do to minimize injuries.  Don’t catch yourself with your arms because it’s easy to break your wrist that way.  Try to bend your knees as much as possible so that the distance you fall is shorter.  Tilt your head forward, touching your chin to your chest and curl the top part of you’re body to prevent your head from hitting the ground.  Hit the ground butt first then rock backwards. Once your back has hit the ground you can use your arms to stop your momentum if you need to.  I’ve been doing aikido and jujitsu for a few years now and the single most useful thing I’ve learned is how to fall backwards.It takes a lot of practice to build up enough muscle memory to automatically fall this though, and it won’t prevent all injuries, so once again the best thing you can do is prevent slips and falls by keeping walkways clear and salted.




Winter Storm Checklist

Since a lot of us have been experiencing winter storms this week, I thought I’d share some information about winter weather hazards and prevention.  I found a group of articles on Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health’s website.  The main one I wanted to highlight is their farm winter storm checklist (click here to see it in a new tab) but they have a bunch of other good winter articles on things like preventing pipe damage, dealing with ice on roofs, and using windbreaks to protect fields and livestock.  Click here to see their full list of articles.  Stay safe out there!


Winter Weather Hazards: Frostbite, Hypothermia, Dehydration, Heart Attack

Since a lot of us have been experiencing winter storms this week, I thought I’d share some information about winter weather hazards.  This  video gives a good summary of preventing frostbite and hypothermia, the symptoms of each, and what to do if you or someone around you experiences symptoms.

The video covers frostbite and hypothermia pretty thoroughly, but there are a few other common winter health hazards that it doesn’t mention.

Dehydration: Most people pay close attention to drinking enough water in summer, but dehydration can occur in winter too. Because the air is so dry, you loose water when you breathe and warm layers can cause you to sweat as much as you would in warmer weather.  Because the air is colder, you’re also less likely to feel thirsty, so make sure you’re drinking water regularly even if you don’t feel like it!Click here for a more detailed article on winter dehydration.

Heart Attacks While Shoveling Snow: I couldn’t find any information on whether or not farmers (who are more used to physical labor in all weathers) have the same increased risk of heart attacks while shoveling as the general population, but it’s worth mentioning that performing physical labor in cold weather can increase the risk of heart attack.  This is because of a combination of blood vessels contracting due to the cold and an increase of blood pressure due to physical exertion.  If you’re shoveling snow, or doing any other physically demanding job in the cold weather, you might want to  take more frequent breaks or break the task into smaller loads/pieces if possible. This is especially true if you already have heart or blood pressure issues. Signs of a heart attack include lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath, or if you have tightness or burning in chest, neck, arms or back. If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 right away!  Click here to see an article about winter heart attacks.

Nominate Your Fire Department for Grain Bin Safety Equipment (by Nationwide)

In honor of Grain Bin Safety Week (Feb 18-24) Nationwide insurance is hosting it’s 5th  annual “Nominate Your Fire Department” contest.  Local fire departments can be nominated through the contest web page on Nationwide’s website (Click here for contest info and nomination form).

Each winning fire department receives a grain rescue tube and a 6 hour training session worth between $3,000 and $5,000.  Entries for the contest will be accepted between January 1, 2018 and April 30, 2018.  A detailed description of the contest rules and prizes can be found here: Click here to view full contest rules


The Hierarchy of Controls: A General Strategy for Injury Prevention

Today’s post is going to be more theoretical than usual, but I’d like to share a quick summary of the overall approach to injury prevention that is used in engineering, public health, manufacturing and other industries.  It’s called the hierarchy of controls.  I’m sharing it because for me, it’s been a useful way to think about injury prevention, and because a lot of the specific prevention strategies I’m posting were made with this hierarchy in mind.

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The hierarchy of controls ranks different ways of dealing with a hazard from most effective to least effective.

The most effective way of addressing a hazard is to eliminate it it completely.  If the hazard is gone, no one can get hurt by it.  One example I can think of from my own experience is when we got rid of a bull that was starting to charge at whoever was feeding him.

Getting rid of a hazard isn’t always a reasonable solution. The next best thing is substitution, or replacing something that is more hazardous with something that is less hazardous.  For example, substituting a tractor with ROPS for one without greatly reduces the risk for many jobs.

If substitution isn’t possible either, the third option is engineering controls, or coming up with designs that limit a person’s interaction with the hazard. The special equipment used for storing and applying anhydrous ammonia are good examples of engineering controls.

If it’s not possible to eliminate, substitute, or engineer away the hazard, the next level of defense is administrative controls.  These are things like laws, or rules that you have on your own farm.  Administrative controls aren’t very effective because the person has to decide whether to follow the rules or not.

The least effective way of dealing with a hazard is personal protective equipment, such as dust masks, gloves, goggles, steel toed boots, earplugs, etc. Protective equipment is considered the least effective for a few reasons. Like with administrative controls, people have to decide to decide to use the equipment. For protective equipment to work, it has to be the right type for the job and it must be worn correctly (this is more difficult than you’d think). Protective equipment can  make jobs more difficult or create new hazards if it makes it difficult to move, hear, see, or if they can get tangled in other equipment.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t wear protective equipment, but it should be a backup plan or extra protection instead of your main strategy for avoiding injury.

I hope that  this general overview of the hierarchy of controls was useful. For me it’s been a helpful way to think about injury prevention.  If you’d like to learn about injury prevention strategies in more detail, here is a link to the Department of Labor’s guide to injury prevention:

Department of Labor Injury Prevention Guide