Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Planting season brings increased risk of physical injury and mental stress among farmworkers and families, says University of Missouri Extension safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

Before heading to the fields, review basic safety lessons with workers and family members, she says.

Rural roadway safety

Remind others to share the road, slow down and watch rural roads for slow-moving farm equipment on hills and curves, says Funkenbusch.

Farmers should check equipment for slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblems and do a safety check of turn signals and mirrors before driving. Put cellphones down and reduce other distractions.

Discourage children from riding on tractors. They can fall off or become injured in power takeoff accidents.

If there are children on the farm, make a habit of walking around equipment before starting the tractor, she says. Avoid loose-fitting clothing and tie back long hair to avoid PTO tragedies.

See Show-Me Farm Safety for more guidelines at

Animal safety

The National Ag Safety Database reports that the number of farm injuries involving animals ranks second only to machinery accidents.

Animals may look friendly but can easily feel spooked or threatened when approached by people who are not their usual caretakers. Train visitors to respect the animals and be alert around livestock.

For more information on animal safety, visit the National Ag Safety Database at

ATV safety

Many farm families own and operate all-terrain vehicles for work and fun, but ATVs are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles.

Review owners manual rules and adhere to age and legal requirements. Follow recommendations on weight limits, number of riders and safety equipment such as helmets, eye protection and clothing. Find more information at


Train family members and workers to use proper personal protective equipment when working around herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Thoroughly read, understand and follow label instructions. Store chemicals in original containers and keep children away from them. Know the telephone number of your local poison control center or the National Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222.

Stress less, sleep more

Many accidents result from stress or lack of sleep. Equipment breakdowns, untimely rains and long hours can cause short-term stress that can reduce reaction times and prompt people to take shortcuts that lead to accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need seven to nine hours of quality sleep daily.

MU Extension offers mental health resources through Iowa Concern, a 24-hour hotline that provides access to free stress counseling and other resources. Call 800-447-1985 or visit

Funkenbusch also recommends Missouri 211 (dial 2-1-1), a referral and informational hotline, and Missouri’s Access Crisis Intervention hotlines; find the ACI hotline for your county at

MU Extension participates in the North Central Farmers and Ranchers Stress Alliance grant through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to help provide mental health and suicide prevention services to farmers, ranchers and other agriculture-related workers and their families.