OSH Answers Fact Sheets
Easy-to-read, question-and-answer fact sheets covering a wide range of workplace health and safety topics, from hazards to diseases to ergonomics to workplace promotion. MORE ABOUT >
What does a farmer do?
Farmers, ranchers, crop growers, animal handlers, and other agricultural workers will have similar functions but perform varied tasks depending on the size and type of their farm. They may work with animals or grow various crops, or both. Common tasks include the following:
- Plan and organize the farm's resources.
- Feed and care for animals.
- Clean or remove animal waste.
- Maintain equipment such as tractors, pickups, ATVs, front-end loaders, augers, etc.
- Maintain lands, barns, buildings, silos, bins, elevators, yards, fences, etc.
- Monitor water supply systems for animal drinking water.
- Negotiate with potential buyers and arrange for the storage and shipment of livestock or harvest.
- Train and supervise individuals who work on farm, including family, workers of all ages, volunteers, and apprentices.
What are some health and safety issues for farmers?
There are many potential health and safety hazards associated with farmer's duties, including:
- Standing for long hours.
- Sitting for long hours, especially on moving or vibrating vehicles.
- Working in awkward postures, performing repetitive tasks, lifting.
- Working in or around confined spaces.
- Risks from animals including kicks, bites, steps, strikes, being squeezed against a wall or fence, etc.
- Falls from heights, down shafts, etc.
- Working long hours, or shifts.
- Slips, trips and falls from wet, untidy and obstructed floors.
- Work in extreme temperatures and UV radiation.
- Exposure to hazardous materials including fuel, lubricants, antifreeze, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, veterinary preparations, paints, varnishes and etc.
- Exposure to hazardous gases in and around manure pits that may cause asphyxiation and/or explosions.
- Exposure to hazardous gases in silos during grain storage, as well as the risk of engulfment by flowing grain.
- Needlestick or sharps injuries.
- Risk of respiratory disorders, including lung disorders from inhaling moulds.
- Fire and explosion hazards, including combustible dusts and decaying manure.
- Exposure to zoonotic diseases from various sources, including animals (e.g., toxoplamosis, Q fever, rabies), poultry (e.g., histoplasmosis, psittacosis), insects (e.g., West Nile, Lyme), rodents (e.g., hantavirus), soil, manure, etc.
- Exposure to noise.
- Working alone.
- Working at heights.
- Various hazards from machinery and equipment (e.g., tractors, pickups, ATVs, front-end loaders, implements, attachments/power take-offs, etc.).
- Risk of accidental start up when working on equipment or machinery.
What are some preventive measures for a farmer?
- Read manufacturer's instructions and know how to use all equipment safely.
- Inspect all tools and equipment and make sure they are in good condition before use.
- Understand the behaviour of animals including their reactions. Plan, in advance, your escape route whenever you work in an enclosure with animals.
- Determine which are hazardous products, follow the safe handling information, and label products properly.
- Be aware of the hazards associated with various materials including grain storage, manure, hay, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, etc.
- Know the hazards associated with confined space entry and follow procedures for confined space work.
- Do not enter a storage bin, especially those with loose materials, unless all precautions have been taken.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., gloves, footwear, hearing protection, respirator).
- Wash hands frequently to prevent infection, and after contact with chemicals.
- Maintain proper lighting levels at the working areas.
- Keep and maintain first-aid kit(s).
- Develop emergency preparedness and response plan including animal evacuation plan.
- Take regular rest breaks.
- Be aware of the spread of animal disease, and contamination of food and water supplies.
- Have a communication plan when you are working alone (e.g., carry a cell phone or two way radio, always tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to come back).
What are some good general safe work practices?
- Follow safety procedures for:
- Practice safe lifting techniques.
- Practice good housekeeping procedures.
- Use, maintain and store personal protective equipment as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Learn about chemical hazards, WHMIS and MSDSs.
- Learn how to clean equipment and tools properly.
- Know basic and emergency first aid.
- Know how to report hazards.
Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.