First response is critical when an incident on the farm causes severe injury. The first rule is to keep calm. Adrenalin can take over and a series of emotions such as panic, fear, and anxiety can be overwhelming when a severely injured person, possibly a family member, is discovered. Remaining calm and taking the appropriate actions can prevent putting you or the victim in further danger and provide emergency assistance that may save the life of the injured person. The appropriate action isn't always apparent, and each emergency may require a different response. The first responder sometimes must make difficult choices; however, your primary concerns are to:
- Make sure that you, or the victim, are not in further danger.
- Get professional help by calling 911 and activating emergency medical services (EMS).
- Provide appropriate care until EMS arrive.
Whether you immediately go for help or begin rendering aid depends on three things: the type of incident, the severity of the injury, and your ability to correctly administer first aid and/or CPR. Activating EMS as soon as possible can increase the chances of survival by providing advanced medical care. If there are other people with you, one person should call 911 and one person should remain to assess the scene and assist the victim.
1. Scene assessment
First, size up the situation from a position that does not put you at risk of injury. Before you rush in to assist the victim, first make sure the scene is safe. Do not become another victim. Look for live wires or electrical hazards, toxic atmospheres, chemical spills, potential fire hazards, unstable equipment, or aggressive livestock. Assess what might have caused the incident. Hazards could still be present at the incident scene. If possible, safely control any hazards that could harm you or cause further harm to the victim.
2. Activating EMS (911)
When calling emergency personnel, never hang up until the dispatcher or operator tells you to do so. The dispatcher may start the emergency response procedure and come back for more information. The person making the emergency call will answer questions about the incident that the 911 dispatcher will ask. The dispatcher will ask for information about the emergency such as, the nature of the emergency, location of the incident, number of victims involved, condition of victims, type of aid that was or can be given, whether someone will meet EMS at a remote location, and any special conditions that might hinder rescue efforts, such as a confined space, rough ground conditions, gas spill, fire, or electrical wires.
If the incident is in a remote location such as a field, give precise directions using intersections, directional indicators, mileage estimates, bridges, and landmarks. When using landmarks, make sure they are well known, permanent, and easily visible whether it is day or night and regardless of the time of year. Posting someone at the road or a specified point to direct emergency personnel to the incident site can save critical time. Even if you are not sure that emergency medical services are necessary, it is better to activate them and later cancel the request when you are positive they are not needed.
3. Waiting for help to arrive
Once emergency medical services have been notified and the scene is safe, rendering aid depends on the type of accident, the severity of the injury, and your ability to correctly administer first aid and/or CPR. Assess the victim. Is the person responsive? Is the person breathing or having trouble breathing? Is there significant bleeding? Are signs of trauma such as bruising, swelling, cuts, or deformities evident? Is the victim entrapped in or under a piece of equipment? Is the person entangled, engulfed, or injured by severe trauma such as crushes, cuts, or blunt force?
Keep the victim still and as comfortable as possible while waiting for emergency services to arrive. Verbally ask the victim if they are okay and to see if they are conscious. If the injured person is conscious, provide assurance. Unless the victim is in immediate danger, never move someone with a potential spine injury because you can cause more damage to them by trying to move or extricate them. If it is necessary to move a victim that you even suspect has a spinal or back injury, keep the midline of the body as straight as possible and pull in a direction that is in a straight line with the victim's spine. Make sure the victim can breathe, and control bleeding by applying direct pressure on the wound and elevating it above the heart. If someone is trapped, realize that each situation is unique. It is important that you use the time before the emergency team arrives to further assess the situation. If you are familiar with the piece of machinery, your ideas for removal of the victim could be extremely helpful to emergency workers.
This fact sheet was reviewed by Karen Mancl, PhD, Professor, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University; and Pat Luchkowsky, Director of Public Affairs, Easter Seals of Ohio.
Carrabba, J. (2008, December). First Response to Farm Emergencies. Country Folks Grower.
Farm Safety Association. (n.d.). Farm Accident Rescue. Guelph, Ontario.
Malinowski, K., & Margentino, M. (1992, February). Handling Emergency Situations on the Farm. National Ag Safety Database.
Schwab, C. A. (1993, December). How to Respond to Farm Accidents. Safe Farm.
About AgrAbility Based Fact Sheets
These fact sheets were developed to promote success in agriculture for Ohio's farmers and farm families coping with a disability or long-term health condition. AgrAbility offers information and referral materials such as this fact sheet, along with on-site assessment, technical assistance, and awareness in preventing secondary injuries. Fact sheets were developed with funding from NIFA, project number OHON0006.