Farm safety

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation marks 23 years of delivering presentations on potential dangers and safety 
around farm chemicals, grain bins and equipment, train crossings, wildlife and other hazards unique to rural areas

An entanglement in a tractor’s power take-off launched the idea for Progressive Agriculture safety days in Lac La Biche, Alta.

Colleen Pierce’s son, then in Grade 6, was pounding posts with his father the fall day it happened.

He was wearing his father’s coveralls and straddling the power take-off when it grabbed the garment and pulled him in.

“You realize how quickly farm incidents can happen,” said Pierce.

“Sometimes you just don’t realize the dangers. You are thinking about getting something done and don’t realize the risks.”

He was airlifted to Edmonton and recovered from serious leg injuries.

After his recovery, the young 4-H club member researched how such incidents could be prevented, found the Progressive Agriculture Foundation and encouraged his family to get involved.

Now in its 10th year, the safety presentations and evening programming presented by grades 5 to 8 students reflect topics particularly concerning in the region. They include subjects such as bear awareness, distracted driving and electrical, chemical, fire and underground pipelines safety.

This year, they are slated for April 25-26.

“With each and every session, you want it to be age appropriate and interactive,” said Pierce.

“They (children) are just like sponges.”

Participants move between as many as 18 stations every 15 to 20 minutes. Each one includes a brief introduction, a hands-on or interactive component and a quick summary.

Stephanie Janssens, a Manitoba paramedic and safety day co-ordinator, sees the aftermath of accidents in her job. The most common farm accidents are tractor run-overs and rollovers and getting pulled into augers or sucked under grain piles.

“I want to create awareness so that kids know the dangers out there as well as the parents,” Janssens said.

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Her safety day, slated for May 31 in Killarney, targets youth because early education is key to preventing some of these incidents.

“It’s not only for things that happen on the farm but even how to call 911,” said Janssens, who is surprised by how many children don’t know their land location.

She also stressed the importance of easy access to first aid kits in vehicles, barns and homes and being aware of what and who are nearby when operating farm equipment.

In Lac La Biche, sessions focused on rail crossings, the use of guns, biking and quadding with helmets, sun protection, drug safety and seat belt use in vehicles.

“We talk about (medication) prescriptions and how not to take anything that might look like candy,” said Pierce, who cited particular dangers to small children who can’t read labels.

She said grandparents who haven’t had children afoot for some time may not have locked up their cleaning supplies.

Take-home bags help educate extended family about the dangers lurking in and around their homes.

“It’s the whole awareness of things that can happen or potential dangers. It’s reminding us how quickly things can happen,” said Pierce.

The non-profit Progressive Agriculture Foundation provides resources, take-home bags, insurance coverage and T-shirts free of charge to participating communities.

Online resources include 30 topics with hundreds of hands-on activities for each.

The only requirement is for co-ordinators to attend a training session, at a cost of $100.

Bernard Geschke, program specialist with the foundation, said the far-reaching program staged by volunteer co-ordinators hosts more than 400 safety days annually in Canada and the United States.

About 100,000 people have participated in Canada to date with 90 safety days planned this year.

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He said topics are chosen by local providers and have changed since the program launched 23 years ago.

“We always have to be changing with the times to stay current,” said Geschke.

It now includes internet, social media and computer safety and addresses strategies for children who might be home alone for certain periods of time.

He said farms are unique because they include family, employees and multiple generations.

“And kids that live, work and play right there in the area,” he said.

Geschke thinks parents can guide the safety messages and lead by example.

Kids are watching when parents are stepping over the power take-off shaft or not wearing a helmet while riding an all-terrain vehicle.

“If Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa do some of those high-risk things, those kids will do some of the high-risk things,” said Geschke.

He said the program measures its success by testing children on their safety knowledge before and at the end of the safety day, but also in follow-up tests three to six months later.

“If that child has retained it for three to six months, odds are they will remember it for life.”

For the future, Geschke said the foundation is considering a farm safety app, given the abundance of cellphones and electronics used by young people today.

What puts young workers at risk?

  • lack of experience
  • unfamiliar with work
  • enthusiasm sometimes 
outweighs judgment
  • risk-taking attitudes
  • drive to prove themselves
  • reluctance to ask questions

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  • bufford54

    The dangers on a farm are very real. Machinery, animals, and chemicals, are just some of the things that can take a life. Safety training should be mandatory for everyone living and working on a farm. If it saves just one life, it will be worth it.

    • Harold

      For “If it saves just one life”; we will be all locked up in our homes. There seems to be an abundance of those who are willing to give their kids, and themselves, over to the State in favor of State protection, rather than to take on FULL personal responsibility for their own actions; Is this how we now seek forgiveness for accidents? You do know that banning aircraft from the skies will save one life, and eliminate the human error associated with death and injury. With all of the driving programs combined, we still have traffic accidents and state legislated insurance and their punitive forgiveness. Were humans ever deigned to drive, or were we deigned to walk. For all things that we were not designed for, there will always be a few tragic results with one or many paying the price for its freedom. To be free of Injury and death is to be dead and buried; where the event of injury cannot possibly occur. The worst death is a mental and physical death while we yet live (mind prison) To live; is to be free of Government. (will of the people) I cannot pinpoint one expert that has kept me free from injury or death other than myself, yet with all of my knowledge combined, I will not be able to add even one extra day to my life, nor will any “preacher”. I have heard for many years the statement “If it saves one life”, only to see that this statement legitimized and preceded punitive measures placed upon all of the public by the State. Big example; Ask any Canadian ff they themselves should have the Right to drive an automobile. In all honesty they will say yes; it is a necessary freedom. Is it a Right? No; (about now, government and Insurance company rhetoric should be pouring into the mind legitimizing the status quo) Driving is a privilege to which punitive measures are added by the State, but to a Right, punitive measures cannot be added. In Law; any Right can be revoked if a person creates harm or injury to any other human being, up to and including Jail; by Jury of peers. This would include driving if it were a Right. A driving Right would also mean that after a competency test, there is no license or registration renewal for your property or operating fines that the State can place upon a Right: Only compensation for actual damage or injury. “Please State, grant me the privilege to drive so that I can express your State given freedoms, and also the privilege to make a living. I will pay you for the privilege”.(all grown up: sob sob) Has the State prevented any accidents or injury because it is a Privilege over a Right? The State has received great wealth through public fear atop of the privilege platform. Let’s keep creating Nanny State privileges for ourselves. No one needs rights anymore. Under who’s Authority is driving a privilege; Canadians? Would driving have been a privilege if the Queen had never set foot in this Country? Was it by the Will of the aboriginals that we are adhering to privilege? Parents offer privileges to their children, but only until the children reach maturity. (adult)
      I threw the “prison” statement “if it saves one life’ in the garbage, where it belongs, a long time ago, but kept “if one receives true knowledge, it was worth it” instead. My fate has always. and will always, look after its self.
      Am I against education? No. I am against so called experts who cannot identify an old man or middle aged man as having child like tendencies during a time of new discovery. New discoveries at any age, puts a worker at risk. Risk or a lack of experience is not a young person’s disease. Personal experience has always been the best teacher, but Books, literature, computer Aps, experts, and company flyer’s, are not an experience, only a promise to an experience or not. Numbly we accept education over personal experience as being the same even though evidence of injury and harm proves otherwise.
      There is not a safety talk or an expert that can guarantee any human being a tomorrow by following their rules over and above anyone’s own experience and fate. Experience is key, and to every experience there is, or was, and will continue to be, risk. Experts follow the do-ers around and point out the fault of the do-er only after the do-er has seen and understood the fault personally. On the other hand, you will never find fault to most experts because they do not ever put themselves at risk in the do-ing, but they also produce nothing either. This is why an expert is never killed or injured in a farming accident; It’s not worth the risk of they’re not being believed. Experts pleasure themselves in the “if it saves lives” rhetoric, because no one can prove they did save a life, but they stand taller when someone does loose a life. What religion are we following?