Organic Broadcaster

Machinery, vehicles, water sources among biggest dangers for kids on farms

By Jennifer Nelson, MOSES

Agriculture is our nation’s most dangerous occupation. Farms are the only worksites in the U.S. where children of any age can be present at any time. The reality of getting farm work done while keeping children safe and supervised often can be a bit trickier than parents anticipate. Additionally, as agro-tourism becomes an increasingly popular family activity, more young children are spending time on farms. They and their parents often don’t realize the potential dangers of machinery, vehicles and open water in the idyllic farm setting.

There are many easy steps we can take as adult farmers and farm visitors to protect our children from accidents and injuries on the farm, and still give them a fun and fulfilling farm experience. Many accidents occur because adults assume that children are more physically and mentally capable than they actually are. By understanding kids’ developmental capabilities, you can avoid potential safety threats.

The leading causes of harm to children under 10 on farms are vehicles (including tractor, truck and other machinery) and drownings. ATV accidents are close in the running as youth under 16 years operating an ATV are four times more likely to experience an injury requiring an emergency department visit.

Tractor, Machinery Safety
The best way to keep children safe around tractors and other machinery is to keep children under 12 away from tractors and machinery. Most common accidents result from a tractor overturn, a rider thrown, or a bystander outside of the sightline of the driver. Sudden stops, driving over holes, stumps and debris, or a sharp turn can cause an extra rider to lose footing.

To protect children, follow these safety tips:

• Read and practice safety guidelines in the vehicle manual.
• Fit an approved cab with seatbelt and/or roll-over protective structure (ROPS).
• Remove keys when vehicles are not in use.
• Follow safe vehicle maintenance and jacking procedures.
• Always mount and dismount on a tractor’s left side in order to avoid the controls.
• Adjust the seat so all controls are safely and comfortably within reach.
• Keep all guards in place, including the power take-off (PTO).
• Never carry passengers.
• Drive at speeds slow enough to retain control in case a child runs in front of the vehicle.

All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Safety
It is industry-advised that to ride an ATV on public lands, the operator must be at least 12 years old and be supervised by an adult with a safety certificate. To ride without adult supervision the operator must be at least 16 years old or possess a safety certificate. However, ATV laws are governed by states. You can get up to speed on your state’s guidelines at http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/all-terrain-vehicle-safety-laws-by-state.aspx.

Most ATV injuries commonly occur in rollover crashes, collisions with stationary objects or falling off the ATV. Most common are injuries to the head and neck, and fractured bones. Along with your state’s guidelines, there are factors that are key to the safe operation of an ATV.

ATV drivers must at least:

• Have the physical size, strength, coordination, and motor skills to operate an ATV.
• Have the cognitive capacity to anticipate, recognize and react to potential hazards.
• Use good judgment to act responsibly, minimize risks, and react to potential hazards.
• Wear a DOT-approved helmet with face protection, long sleeve shirt, long pants, non-skid boots, and gloves.

Water Safety
Following vehicles, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury death among children ages 1 to 14. It is estimated that for each childhood drowning death, approximately four children are hospitalized for near-drowning. Youth can drown in less than two inches of water (e.g., buckets, stock tanks, etc.). Childhood drowning in rural areas often occurs in non-pool settings, such as lakes, ponds and irrigation canals. Water safety and accident prevention can be done by following these guidelines:

• Provide responsible adult supervision around any water source.
• Use self-closing, self-latching fencing on all bodies of water when possible.
• Supply rescue options like personal flotation devices around bodies of water.
• Train all family members in CPR and first aid.
• Take swimming lessons for all family members.
• Train your family on how to anticipate, recognize, and react to water hazards.

Jennifer Nelson is a MOSES Organic Specialist.

From the May | June 2016 Issue

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