A new organization, the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America, was recently formed to work toward making farming safer.

Agriculture is consistently among the most hazardous occupations in the United States, according to Dennis Murphy, Penn State Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health, a founding board member of the new council. In an average year, 516 workers die while doing farm work, and each day about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-time injuries.

"Agriculture, due to its decentralized nature and diverse structure, lags behind other industries in reducing the toll on its workers with a safety rate that is eight times that of the all-industry average," Murphy says. "The council's mission is to proactively address ongoing and emerging occupational safety and health issues affecting agriculture in the United States."

The new council, driven by farmer/rancher and agribusiness leaders, is the first of its kind in the country to pursue a national strategy to reduce disease, injuries and fatalities in American agriculture. The group will attempt to influence research priorities to rapidly identify best-management practices for worker safety and health that maximize cost efficiency and sustainability.

The Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America is building on the success of similar national initiatives in Australia and Canada, Murphy notes. Organizations represented on the group's board of directors include many familiar names, such as AGCO Corp, Agri-Services Agency, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, CropLife Foundation, Farm Employers Labor Service, Workers Compensation Fund-Utah, National Institute for Farm Safety, National Pork Board and Penn State.

Administrative services are provided by the National Farm Medicine Center at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation.

"The council will pursue national strategies to reduce agricultural injuries and fatalities, based on reliable data and emerging issues," Murphy says. "The group will guide the development of effective delivery systems for safety and health through communications involving leaders representing producers, agribusinesses, insurance companies, safety associations and others."

A variety of membership packages are available for individuals and organizations.