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Staying safe at harvest

ST. PAUL -- Harvest season is a culmination of more than a year of planning, hard work and patience. It's an exciting time for farmers, but it also can be a dangerous time.

We in Minnesota received a tragic reminder of that danger recently when a worker died in a grain entrapment incident in Waseca County.

Our hearts go out to the family of that young man, and to all families who've had to deal with such tragedies. I also pray that we have no more incidents of injury or death on our farms or agricultural facilities. Of all the potential hazards associated with work on and around farms and agricultural facilities, some of the biggest risks are associated with animal handling, grain storage and accidents involving farm equipment and machinery. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 9,479 farmers and farm workers died from work-related injuries in the U.S. from 1992 to 2009. The leading cause of death for these workers was tractor overturns, accounting for more than 90 deaths annually. The Labor Department also reports that about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-work-time injury every day, and 5 percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.

Watching the roads

Another potential danger we may not always consider is the risk to farmers and motorists when slow-moving farm machinery is moving on rural roads this time of year. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, crashes involving farm vehicles and equipment are rare. When they do happen, however, they can result in serious injuries and death. Of the more than 175,000 people involved in crashes in Minnesota in 2011, 149 were involved in a crash with a tractor or other farm equipment. Those accidents resulted in 19 injuries and two deaths.

Although every Minnesota farm is unique, there are some common steps all farmers can take to maximize safety for themselves and their families.

Online resources

That's why we've added a new page on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website offering safety tips to help farmers avoid common problems.

The new page can be accessed by selecting "Farm Safety" from the featured items atop our home page at

If you are among the thousands of Minnesota farmers out in the field this autumn, please take a moment to check out the information on our website, and please follow the tips that can help you and your family have a safe 2012 harvest.

Dave Frederickson is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.