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Editorial: Worthwhile program makes farmers safer

This week’s state-declared observation of Farm Safety and Health Week takes special significance this year. During the most recent legislative session, a measure was passed to keep tractor drivers safer.

The Rollover Protective Structures Rebate Program is designed to prevent injuries and deaths caused by rollovers on farm equipment. The program helps reimburse farmers and schools that install roll bars and seat belts in tractors for better protection. Applicants’ cost per tractor is limited to no more than $500 and the program helps identify the right kit for the vehicle.

U.S. Department of Labor statistics cite tractor overturns as the leading cause of farmer fatalities. Roll bars and seat belts are 99 percent effective in preventing death and serious injury when a rollover occurs, according to the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, which administers Minnesota’s program.

Prevention is a must for any type of workplace safety. The ag industry is especially vulnerable when it comes to injuries and fatalities as farmers work with an extensive amount of powerful machinery and dangerous scenarios, from suffocating grain bins to deadly power take-off shafts on tractors.

Between 2003 and 2013, workplace fatalities in Minnesota’s agricultural industry rose by 30 percent, while another recent study found the occupational fatality rate for farmers is 800 percent higher than other industries, according to state figures.

The new rebate program — one of only seven in the nation — reimburses farmers and schools at least 70 percent of the cost of purchasing, shipping, and installing a rollover protection kit. The program is the result of a public-private partnership with the state contributing $250,000 and private donations provided by Cargill, CHS Inc., ADM and Land O’Lakes.

Helping farmers make safety upgrades to their equipment to prevent death and injury makes a lot of sense in Minnesota where agriculture plays such a major role. As harvest gets underway this fall, farmers will be out in the fields, and this new program makes sure they are safer as they work hard to bring in the crops.

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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