Promoting safety culture at farms
TO perform different farm-related jobs, growers use hand tools operate electric/mechanical machines and interact with toxic chemicals on a daily, weekly and seasonal basis.
Similarly loading/unloading of heavy materials and farm goods (fodder, grains, fertiliser bags etc) and transporting them either from home to farm or vice-versa or from service centres to fields is routine work for cultivators. Due to hazardous nature of the job, safety and health of farmers and their family members are at risk.
Owing to non-use of protective gadgets, misapplication of hand tools, inattention, mishandling of chemicals, bad working conditions, exhausting physical work and negligence, farmers, while performing different farm-related tasks, often suffer accidents.
These accidents result in fatal/non-fatal injuries, skin/body diseases and deface machine/assets of farmers. According to Labour Force Survey 2010-11, occupational injuries in agriculture rank first among all other professions.
These injuries to farmers affect farm efficiency, lead to work loss and financial strain on peasants. In case of disability of a farmer, cultivators lose a worker. Peasant families suffer more in case a woman becomes victim as she has to work both at the farm and at home.
Policies need to be framed to eliminate or reduce farm accidents by improving safety culture.
While watering fields either during the day or at night, cutting crops, handling toxic chemicals, lifting heavy materials, using hand tools, spraying crops and operating electric machines, cultivators do not use safety shoes, mask, helmets, goggles, rubber gloves and proper dress. Non-use of protective gadgets may result in accidents, injuries, in some cases, also disable farmers.
Due to strenuous physical work owing to non-use of machines (plough with bull instead of tractor) cultivators also become mentally strained and bypass safety precautions. They are unable to deal with unexpected events; as in case of electric shock, other farmers on the spot also become victim by touching electric boards/machines with wet hands.
Financial constraints, machines cost and poor machine designs are some other reasons for hazards.
To promote farmers’ safety, there is a need to set up an agriculture safety division. It is also necessary to educate farmers about operating principles of machines, electric circuit dealing, importance, need and the use of protective measures/ safety tools during farming operations.
It can be done by organising classroom and lab training for farmers at tehsil or district levels. As females suffer the most, their presence must be ensured in such training programmes. Safety equipment (safety shoes, heavy/rubber gloves, special mask, etc) must be provided to peasants at lowest possible prices or at subsidised rates.
Service providers can also play an important role. While selling pesticides and chemicals they need to warn the farmers about the toxicity of these chemicals and the precautionary measures to be taken while using these substances.
In case of any accident, farmers need urgent and on the spot treatment and there should be medical facilities for them. The government must announce financial support for farmers in case of fatalities and serious injuries. Daily use farm machines like fodder cutters and diesel-driven pump and tools must be provided to farmers at subsidised rates so that they can replace their old machines.