Top 10 list of causes of loss on farms

Chris Schlechta

To help keep your family, farm and business safe, we've compiled a list of the top 10 most encountered hazards identified by Rural Mutual Insurance staff. Please use this as a self-inspection to look around your property.

Growing Farm Safety Traditions

Did you know that 40 percent of small businesses permanently close after a significant loss occurs? About 25 percent of those that reopen will fail within one year, and 90 percent of those that reopen will fail within two years according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. As an insurance company, we can help provide some financial guarantees to protect you from loss, but there are a host of factors that add to these sobering statistics.

It's important to understand that generally no single factor causes a loss. In nearly all post-incident root causes analysis, a list of contributing and causal factors combined to result in the loss. Some of these hazards may seem less impactful than others. When combined with the other factors that routinely are identified in a loss, correcting that one minor hazard may break the chain of factors and events that will lead to a significant loss.

Can You Answer Yes to These Questions?

1. Are portable fire extinguishers provided in adequate number and type, mounted (42-48 inches above floor as measured to the top of handle) in readily accessible locations, and inspected annually with the inspection date noted on the inspection tag? [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.157(e)(3)]

2. Are diesel and gasoline fueling tanks more than 110-gallon capacity located at least 40 feet from the nearest building? Unless a containment system is provided, consult with Loss Control for assistance with containment systems) [WI Administrative Code SPS 310.630(2)(a)], and protected from vehicle impact? Suitable barriers would be 4 inches in diameter steel pipe filled with concrete, set 3 feet deep in concrete footing with a footing not less than 15 inches in diameter, spaced 4 feet apart and 5 feet from the protected object. [NFPA 30:] Rocks, concrete blocks/barriers or other barrier devices capable of preventing vehicle contact with the tank also are acceptable. [Rural Mutual Insurance requirement].

3. Are eyewash or shower stations provided for the quick-drenching or flushing of the eyes and body within 10 seconds unimpeded travel distance of where corrosive liquids or other injurious chemicals are handled? Testing of these facilities must be conducted and documented weekly. [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.151(c), ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 incorporated by reference].

4. Are machine guards in place on equipment to protect employees from point of operation, nip points and rotating part hazards? [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1), OSHA 29 CFR 1928.57 for farming operations].

5. Are electrical outlets, junctions, raceways, panels, etc.; covered, have knock-out plugs (or blanks) in-place and free of exposed wiring? [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.303(b)(7)(i)].

6. Are compressed flammable gas cylinders stored in a well-protected, well-ventilated, dry location, at least 20 feet from combustible materials? An assigned storage area must provide a method (rope or non-sparking chain) to secure cylinders from accidentally being knocked over. Cylinders shall not be kept in unventilated enclosures such as lockers and cupboards. [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.253(b)(2)(ii)]

7. Are manure pits and lagoons fenced to prevent unauthorized access? If fencing is not feasible, appropriate warning signs should be placed around the perimeter of the manure pit. If warning signs only are installed, the signs must be maintained in a visible and legible condition. Any issues of feasibility are subject to Underwriter/Loss Control approval. [NRCS Code 382, Item 12] 

8. Are electrical panels provided with at least 36 inches of clearance and materials not stored in this clear area? It can be helpful to mark this area with yellow lines. Access path to the panels can be no less than 30 inches wide. [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.303(g)(1)(i)(B)]

9. Is the property free of any extension cords used for permanent applications? Extension cords should not be used in place of permanent wiring and should not be run through walls, across aisle ways or attached to the building structure. [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.305(g)(1)(ii)]

10. Are containers (i.e., cans, pails, tanks) labeled with the chemical name and hazard information (i.e., flammable, irritant, carcinogen, etc.)? [OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(6)]

Chris Schlechta is the Safety and Loss Control Manager for Rural Mutual Insurance Company