Drowning in Grain and Other Horrific Agricultural Dangers

Farm workers, some of them children, face petrifying and grisly workplace hazards every day.

Photo: Bernat Casero

Photo: Bernat Casero

Your desk job might feel like it’s killing you sometimes, but farming really is one of the deadliest professions in the world.

Agriculture accounts for more than half of international workplace fatalities, reports Modern Farmer. It’s even more dangerous than the mining and construction industries in the U.S.—and some of the most common deaths are almost unbelievably horrific.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, farm machines are one of the biggest dangers, causing disfiguring injuries and grisly fatalities. According to the article, tractors are the number one killer on American farms, claiming 125 lives each year—mostly when the machines roll over and crush the driver, or collide with other cars on the road.

A less predictable but equally ghastly hazard is grain suffocation. This is when a worker becomes engulfed inside a silo or storage bin, and is crushed or drowned—or both. Victims of this harrowing demise are found with grain embedded inside their lungs. Even more disturbingly, the article reports that nearly 20% of these fatalities are young people under the age of 20.

silo Drowning in Grain and Other Horrific Agricultural Dangers

[Photo: Khürt Williams]

There are even reports of farmers drowning in manure pits, a scenario so astonishing it almost sounds fictional. Unfortunately, it’s not: Underground pits are used to store livestock manure, and they release high levels of noxious gases. Some farmers die just from exposure to the toxic fumes, while others pass out and then drown. These incidents often claim multiple lives as others jump in to attempt a rescue. The article reports that a couple, two of their children and a farmhand all died in a single pit accident in 2007.

And then there’s the threat of Lyme disease. Farmers are at greater risk of contracting Lyme disease because they work outside in areas infested with ticks. Early symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, and fatigue. In more advanced stages of the disease, nerve problems and arthritis can occur. Jon Katz of Bedlam Farm in Upstate New York writes,

“Lyme Disease reminds me a bit of getting divorced, half the people you know have been through it, and everybody talks about it, but until you experience it, you just have no clue what it’s like.”

Farming isn’t the only dangerous, food-related profession. In 2012, fishing was the second most life-threatening job in the country, and driving (including trucks and fast-food delivery) was the eighth, reports TIME. And it’s well-known that slaughterhouses and meat processing plants account for some of the most perilous factory jobs in America. Something to mull over next time you complain about your unergonomic desk chair.

[via Modern Farmer]

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