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Make farm safety a valued family tradition

By Keri Collins Lewis
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Farming families believe the country is a great place to raise kids, but sometimes familiarity with farming equipment can lead to a false sense of security.

“The farm can be a dangerous place for children because they play where they work, and it’s hard for them to separate the two concepts,” said Ted Gordon, safety specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “They don’t readily recognize the hazards on the farm, and they must be taught how to see the dangers and how to avoid them.”

Gordon said parents, grandparents, and farm employees must always use precautionary safety measures to model the behaviors they expect from their children. Farm safety should be valued by the entire family.

“Adults must set and enforce safe limits for everyone on the farm, not just for the kids,” he said. “They also must be taught concepts related to animal behavior, electricity, chemicals and pesticides, and proper use of equipment. Children are at greater risk of injury because it is hard to provide constant supervision on a farm.”

These are some basic safety measures to maintain on the farm:

• Chemicals and pesticides should be kept in a locked area.

• Follow the “one seat, one rider” rule.

• Children should not be allowed to play on idle equipment.

• Equipment should be parked and locked. Keys should removed from the ignition.

• Farm ponds and manure pits should be fenced.

• Fixed ladders should be kept out of the reach of children.

• Portable ladders should be stored flat on the ground and kept away from grain wagons, bins and silos.

• Electrical boxes should be kept locked.

“Something as basic as wearing the seatbelts on equipment that has them, such as tractors, would make a big difference,” Gordon said. “Statistically, when both rollover protective structures and seatbelts are used while operating a tractor, more than 90 percent of rollover fatalities can be eliminated. Tractor overturns are the leading cause of death among farmers and farm workers.”

As technology has advanced, the number of types of machines and implements on the farm has increased. Some of these labor-saving ideas have increased the potential risks associated with agricultural activities.

“Long hair, loose clothing, and jewelry can get caught in farm implements such as chain, belt and gear drives, augers and exposed rotating shafts,” Gordon said. “Everyone needs to learn to take extra time and caution in training family members and employees on the proper use of all farm equipment.”

Growing up on the farm also means that sometimes children engage in projects that are not appropriate for them due to their age, lack of experience or developmental level.

“A parent or responsible adult needs to familiarize the kids with jobs and make sure they are capable of performing those jobs,” Gordon said. “Adults should demonstrate and offer support as young people practice new skills and supervise them until they’re sure the younger person is comfortable with the task.”

Romona Edge, Itawamba county coordinator for MSU's Extension Service and a registered nurse, said it is important for families to remember the farm is also home.

“Every family needs to have an emergency plan,” she said. “Hopefully you won’t need it, but you need to be prepared to deal with fires, natural disasters or other emergencies.”

In addition to knowing where first aid supplies are located, all family members should know where the fire extinguisher is and how to operate it.

“Every home layout is unique, so invest time to understand thoroughly what might happen in a real emergency,” Edge said. “Teach children the fire escape route and practice together. Make sure your fire alarm works, and keep your emergency kit packed and ready to go with everything you need.”

National Farm Safety and Health Week is Sept. 15-21. For publications related to farm safety, visit http://www.msucares.com.

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Released: Sept. 6, 2013
Contact: Ted Gordon, 662-566-2201