Story Credit: Justin Cabe

There are approximately 3.1 million men and women who work on America’s 2.3 million farms and ranches. In these settings, accidents and other work-related health problems claim as many as 1,300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, according to the US Department of Labor websites. Knowing the risks, these men and women still work long hours to plant, grow, and harvest food, feed, fiber, and clothing for a growing nation and world.

But even for a seasoned farmer, accidents can still happen. Gary Cabe, owner of Cabe Farms, talks about how when new employees come along it is important to stress that you have to pay attention. “First time employees to the farm can be intimidated by the big machinery, which is something that helps them be a little more cautious,” Cabe said.

After growing up around cotton gins and a managing one for 16 years, Meadow Co-op Gin manager, Dan Jackson, has seen it all. Jackson has seen everything from smashed fingers to fingers getting caught and tendons severed in gin saws. “While the gin saws were turned off an employee went to unstop some cotton from the saws,” Jackson explained. “When he did, another coworker reached up to start the saws up catching his hand in the saws.” What looked to be a major loss of tendons and possible fingers, turned out to be less severe and he returned to work three days later.

Jackson has had several accidents in the gin that looked worse than they really were, but luckily most of the employees returned to work within a week. “When I was working in Roscoe I had a shop foreman that would tell every new person we hired, ‘nothing in this gin is going to reach out and grab you but if it does, it will not let you go,’” Jackson said. While he has heard several stories of people dying in the cotton gin, Jackson has been fortunate enough to never have a death at a gin he has been at. “I am so relieved that there has never been a death on my watch because I have seen other managers have a tough time going through a fatal accident at the gin,” Jackson said.

Paying attention is something that will always be stressed in any job, but especially any dangerous job. While safety has improved in the last 20 years, accidents will still happen, but how severe depends upon the people themselves. The key to a safe environment is paying attention even when doing the smallest jobs. “Always remember,” Jackson said, “Nothing in here is worth getting killed over.”