Sept. 18-24, 2011 marks National Farm Safety and Health Week. The theme for this year’s awareness week is "Safety Counts: Your Community Depends On It, And So Does The Next Generation." While events are taking place across the country all week, one day of special importance is Sept. 21, a day dedicated toward raising awareness for farm safety and kids.
“Farm injuries and fatalities have decreased in previous years, but in the U.S. today there are still an average of two fatalities/week,” says Mary Faber, an intern and outreach coordinator with Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK). “That’s two families every week that lose a child or sibling in a farm-related accident.”
FS4JK was founded nearly 25 years ago by Marilyn Adams, who lost her 11-year-old son in a gravity-flow grain wagon accident. Today, the organization has over 120 chapters across the U.S. and Canada. The mission is to promote a safe farm environment to prevent health hazards, injuries and fatalities to children and youth.
“There are many ways to avoid injury when dealing with animals,” advises Faber. “How can parents teach their child about dangerous-animal warning signs and situations? There are a few rules parents can share with their children.”
Among those tips are:
• First, stay away from mothers with young offspring. It is a normal instinct for a mother to protect her baby, and if startled or threatened, a mother animal could move to protect her baby, becoming very dangerous.
• Second, be quiet and calm. When you are around farm animals, be calm, move slowly, avoid making sudden jerks or movements, and always approach them from the front so they can see what you are doing. Don’t scream or run around them because it will upset them.
•Third, do not interrupt animals that are eating. Animals may become aggressive if they feel that their food supply is being threatened.
• Fourth, stay away from farm animals. They can be unpredictable and should be treated with caution at all times. Watch out for animals with raised or pinned ears, bared teeth, raised hair on the back or tail or those that are pawing at the ground, stomping or snorting. These are signs that the animal is in an aggressive or upset state, and it is best to stay away from them during those times.
Faber is one of nine outreach coordinators. She says FS4JK's chapters put on a multitude of safety events and share safety tips with the community. "As an outreach coordinator, I cover a wide variety of topics including: animal safety, grain safety, tractor safety, ATV safety, sun safety, seat belt safety, and chemical safety. I incorporate these safety messages in presentations, games and fun activities. These messages are also shared through media events in newspapers and on the radio.”
Faber says agriculture is the nation’s most dangerous occupation; almost 700 child deaths occurred on U.S. farms between 1995-2000.
"In 2006 alone, over 3,500 children were injured on the farm," she says. "The farm is a great place to raise kids, but it can also be a dangerous one. If you are interested in learning more about our organization, would like to look into starting a chapter, or hosting a safety event in South Dakota, you can find us online."
Faber is a strong advocate for farm safety, who has been personally impacted by a tragic family loss on the farm.
“Fourteen years ago, when I was just six years old, one of my uncles died in a skid-steer farming accident,” she says. “After this life-changing moment for my family and myself, we realized how important farm safety really is. My older sister, Nancy, is in the middle of her third year as an outreach coordinator in Minnesota. I followed in her footsteps and became an outreach coordinator in South Dakota this winter. My hope is that each child I get the chance to teach about farm safety gets something out of it. The lessons that FS4JK prepares prevent health hazards, injuries and fatalities to children and youth.”
It only takes an instant for a farm accident to occur. Share these important messages and create awareness with area farming families. Farm accidents can be avoided, and National Farm Safety And Health Week on Sept. 18-24 will help share this reminder with the agriculture community.