Emergency Medical Service providers can face special dangers to themselves - and those whose lives they are trying to save - when they arrive on the scene of farm emergencies.
Area EMS providers saw firsthand how to adapt to those situations at the second annual EMS Day by the Lake Saturday at the AEA building at Flindt and Russell. More than 120 local and regional EMS providers took part in the event sponsored by the BVC EMS Training Academy. The day-long session is a continuing education conference for local and regional Emergency Medical Service Providers.
Dan Neenan conducted the session on ag trauma. Neenan reviewed how to pull victims away from tractor rollovers and from grain bins.
Neenan said farmers are more prone to accidents than most other occupations for a number of reasons - a strong work ethic, excessive fatigue, and special groups, such as the presence of children under 14 and those over 65 on work sites - makes those people especially prone to accidents on the farm. While young children and the elderly are more at risk, all generations are at risk to farm injuries, Neenan said.
There are other risks as well, such as inclement weather and isolated location. Farm workers may in fact find themselves injured in inaccessible areas such as silage pits or silos.
Those EMS personnel who respond to such scenes need specialized training in how to respond, Neenan said. While traditional farm workers, such as middle-aged adults, have the highest exposure to dangerous situations, people often forget that older farmers can face such additional problems as sensory loss, slower reaction time, and the fact that they work past retirement and may be more easily fatigued.
Children, on the other hand, have a great deal of curiosity. That, combined with lack of experience and knowledge of on-the-farm dangers, can also make them prone to problems.
As EMS providers arrive at a scene, they should first identify the hazards, develop a plan of action, identify additional resources as needed, and establish a chain of command in the situation.
Hazards can include mechanical, animal, chemical, electrical, or mechanical, Neenan said.
An example of a mechanical hazard would be if a tractor has rolled over on top of the operator. The center of gravity of the tractor could pose a particular concern since there could well be stored energy, such as the tractor being hooked to a wagon. Once the scene is secured, then EMS providers can go to work on the victim. That is when the ABC's are checked for vital signs - airway, breathing, and circulation.
Sometimes during farm emergencies, EMS providers may have to improvise in farm emergencies. That could include seeking mutual aid from such diverse sources as heavy-duty wreckers, implement dealers, or neighboring farmers or fire departments that might have equipment that could help in extricating the victim.
Tractors, in fact, are the greatest single cause of fatalities at 85 percent of on-farm accidents, Neenan said.