You have identified 20 different ways to cut your operating costs to the bare bones. But have you factored in broken bones and other serious farm-related injuries?

If you haven't, you should, advises one expert.

Farming remains one of the riskiest occupations in the United States, according to Jesse LaPrade, coordinator of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System's farm safety training program. He cites data from the National Institute of Safety and Health, which reveal that some 20 percent of farms across the United States experience at least one injury each year that results in at least one lost work day and that also requires professional medical attention.

Roughly 2 percent of all farm injuries nationwide result in permanent disabilities that can cost thousands of dollars to treat and can result in years of lost income to the victim, he says.

These sobering statistics are the reason why every farm operator should provide safety training on a regular basis for all their employees, LaPrade says.

Indeed, at a time when farmers are more preoccupied than ever with reducing operating costs, this is one of the biggest factors that should be considered, he says.

“Many farm safety experts maintain there is virtually no such thing as an accident — practically all injuries can be prevented,” LaPrade says.

He says the biggest risks to farmers typically follow periods when farm workers are up against deadlines, such as harvesting ahead of an approaching storm.

“That's when things can happen, whether it's driving the harvester down the highway from field to field or trying to do three things at once,” he says.

To reduce these risks, LaPrade says farmers should work out a detailed schedule for harvesting and other critical chores far in advance of these severe weather conditions and other emergencies.

“That's one thing they can do, even if they don't study any of the do's and don'ts of farm safety,” he says.

“Don't ever let yourself get into a situation where you're too pushed to get everything done.”

LaPrade cites statistics showing that the largest number of farm-related injuries throughout the state typically occur during harvest.

LaPrade has developed a Farm Safety Training Web site: http://www.aces.edu/farmsafety.

The site features two publications LaPrade considers must reads: Alabama Extension publication ANR-1260, “Safe Tractor Operation;” and ANR-1262, “Hazards of the PTO (Power Takeoff) on Farm Tractors.”

The Web site also features a wide array of other materials farmers can use to develop their own farm safety management plan and to train their workers.

“Safety knowledge isn't something we have to figure out on our own — it's readily available on this Web site and other similar sites and free of cost,” LaPrade says.

He says farmers also would do well to remember the old adage that “knowledge is money in the bank.”

“It certainly applies here in terms of learning ways to work safer and living a healthier life free from farm-related injuries,” LaPrade says.