Mild fall weather in Wisconsin has allowed farmers and their employees extra time to work outside this season. As the opportunity for work increases, the chance for injury and unsafe working conditions continue. Farm employees should always remember that they have the right to workplace injury protection.
Two workers in Nebraska have lost their lives in the grain handling industry this year. These deaths led to an investigation in July by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The company responsible for the deaths was cited by OSHA with 25 serious and one other-than-serious violations related to confined spaces, grain dust, live electrical parts, and fall protection.
Safety hazards on the farm are often easy to spot - big machinery, large animals, tall silos; but a farm's reliance on microscopic organisms can create unseen hazards that workers should be aware of. In a report published this year, Penn State University reminds us of the unseen health consequences of Farmers Lung, Organic Dust Toxicity Syndrome (ODTS), and Silo Filler's Disease.
Farmers Lung is an allergic reaction to the inhalation of mold spores found in hay, grain, and silage. Symptoms are similar to acute bronchitis or influenza, appear three to eight hours after exposure and can last up to two weeks. If you experience these symptoms after exposure to hay, grain, and silage, Penn State recommends increased ventilation in working areas, the wearing of dust masks or a respirator, and improved storage of grains.
Organic Dust Toxicity Syndrome
ODTS often occurs following the unloading of silos. Symptoms are similar to pneumonia and influenza and are tough to diagnose for those unfamiliar with farm working conditions. Workers with these symptoms should limit their exposure to organic dust and maintain proper ventilation in poultry and swine barns.
Silo Filler's Disease
Silo Filler's Disease is caused by unprotected exposure to nitrogen dioxide gas, which is present during the fermentation of silage. It is especially dangerous because symptoms may not appear until lung damage has already occurred. Symptoms, including coughing up blood, chest pain and fluid in the lungs, often present an immediate danger to life and medical attention should be sought right away.
What should I do if I experience symptoms?
If you are diagnosed with any of the above ailments due to your exposure to grain dust at work on a farm, you may be entitled to worker's injury compensation. Recovery of lost wages and coverage of medical bills are often included in these claims. A trusted worker's compensation attorney will work with you to file a claim.