These days, running a family farm requires a working knowledge of agricultural science and the use of chemicals and nutrients to keep crops, and profits, growing. Soil additives including liquid fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia, crop pesticides and others, along with chemicals to clean and sanitize barns, equipment and tools can be extremely dangerous and hazardous to health if not handled carefully.
Safe handling and safety protocols in case of a leak or exposure should be in every farmer's mind. This is especially true where children or elderly family members live on the farm or nearby as caustic chemical exposure can affect them first because of age. The Department of Labor reports that children age 15 years and younger and adults age 65 and older have the highest rates of injury and death on farms. Injuries from farm chemical exposure can range from rashes and boils to loss of consciousness and even death after inhalation.
Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance, a farm insurance agency, offers the following tips for a safe chemical working environment:
- Keep a lock on all chemical storage tanks.
- Protect locked bulk storage tanks with secondary containment, as a safety redundancy.
- Keep pesticides and chemicals in a well-ventilated storage room.
- Plan receipt of chemicals so that you receive them just before you need them, and return any unused chemicals to the distributor as soon as possible so that you can reduce the time during which you store chemicals on your farm.
- Prominently mark chemical storage containers with the contents to assist first-responders and alert them to the dangers of chemical exposure.
- Store all chemicals on shelves rather than on concrete floors.
Keeping these steps and mind and exercising due care for the dangerous of toxic chemical exposure will keep you, your family and farm workers safe on your farm.