While detasseling is a rite of passage for many – and a job that many teens pick up summer after incredibly hot summer – it’s always good to review some of the dangers (injury and illness) associated with this particular activity. Regardless of whether or not detasseling is “old hat” to you, or if you/your teen is a detasseling newbie, it’s always good to know the safety basics.
Detasseling is typically accomplished one of two ways – either by machine or manually – and is done with crop reproduction in mind. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, here’s a quick rundown – the tassel is located at the very top of the cornstalk and is made up of very thin, pollen packed strings. The tassels are removed from some stalks – but not all – allowing for the detasseled stalks to be fertilized by the stalks that still have their tassels. While detasseling yields a lot of benefits for the farmers, it can pose some risk for the workers. Some of the most common ailments encountered by workers while detasseling are:
- Dehydration and heat exhaustion – Detasseling is done in the heat of the day, usually in July and August – meaning soaring temperatures, blistering heat, and long hours in the fields. To avoid the most extreme temperatures, detasseling crews tend to start early in the morning so that they can get a jump on things before the heat gets too bad. Remind your teen to take frequent water breaks while they’re out in the field, and rehydrate them like crazy in the evening hours, too.
- Knee, ankle, and foot injuries – If you’ve ever walked through a corn field (or any field, really) you’re probably well aware that the terrain is less than pristine. The ground is uneven, to say the least, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in corn, being able to see where you’re going becomes a bit of a challenge. Falls, trips, or missteps can result in sprains, strains, and more. Make sure your teen is wearing appropriate (and sturdy) shoes – or boots – for the conditions. That means no flip flops or sandals!
- Cuts and rashes – Cornstalk leaves can leave workers pretty cut up if they’re not wearing the right clothing for the job. This means long pants, long sleeved shirts, socks, and work gloves. Cotton button down “field” shirts and jeans are a good idea, as is a wide brimmed hat (for shade and sun protection).
Detasseling is a great summer job for many teens and young adults – however, it’s also seriously hard work, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. With that said, with a bit of prep work and knowledge, your teen should be able to take to the fields without incident!