LAUREL SPRINGS-In Ashe County, Christmas trees are big business – and there’s really no off-season for the county’s leading cash crop industry.
While the holidays are over for most with the blink of an eye, growers and their workers are constantly thinking ahead and planning the never ending to-do list that pops up every spring.
Although minimizing overhead expenses and maximizing profits is top priority for any business, the local tree industry also puts a huge emphasis on safety.
As any tree grower or field worker will tell you, the tree industry can be a very dangerous enterprise.
The very nature of the work, which includes spraying, shearing and routine chainsaw work poses hazardous conditions on a daily basis.
Any grower will also tell you that preparation and prevention can go a long way in preventing serious injury or death.
To help drive this point home, North Carolina Cooperative Extension in conjunction with N.C. Cooperative Extension and various other sponsors teamed up last week to host a farm safety workshop at the county’s test farm near Laurel Springs.
On Thursday, 275 workers and growers gathered at the farm to learn about the dangers lurking in the tree fields and how to handle everything from a bee sting and sprained ankle to serious cuts and dangerous encounters with wildlife.
Workers rotated from station to station as industry professionals and volunteers offered sage advice earned from years of first-hand experience.
What was taught at each station was based on recommendations, according to Travis Birdsell of the local office of the Cooperative Extension.
“Zero accidents is an acceptable threshold, but we plan to prevent any and all accidents,” he said.
While most of the injuries reported in the field are minor, Birdsell said it might surprise some people to learn that heat exhaustion is also a common occurrence during the summer months when trees are being readied.
Each worker that attended the safety workshop was given a personalized first aid kit. Translators were also on hand so the message of safety was not lost across language barriers.
“We are trying to be proactive,” Birdsell said of the workshop. “Safety is a major concern for everyone in the industry.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-489-3058.