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Safety program targets young farmers

A farm safety program is focusing on younger producers.

Carolyn Sheridan, the clinical director of AgriSafe, told the Safety and Health in Agricultural and Rural Populations (SHARP) conference in Saskatoon Oct. 20 that the AgriSafe network’s overall goal is to support the growing network of trained health-care providers and safety workers.

“It’s so that people will be incented to get good access to preventive health care,” she said.

Rural health professionals, primarily based in Iowa, founded AgriSafe in 2003. It separated from the University of Iowa and became a national non-profit organization with international affiliation in Australia.

Programs include clinical resources, outreach sources, distance education and agricultural health risk assessment.

The college health curriculum is of most relevance for younger farmers.

Sheridan said it began when an Iowa Lakes Community College professor approached her in 1995.

“He said, ‘we have ag students who are going to go out on a farm and we want them to have more information about health and safety.’ ”

The initiative has been altered over the years, but the original concept is still at the core of the college program.

For instance, Sheridan still begins every new class with a base line survey and screening. Hearing tests, lung function tests, BMI and blood pressure monitoring help get the students in tune with their health.

Sheridan said she tries to make the program interactive, by conducting fit tests in front of classmates.

“Safety isn’t sexy, but we can have some fun.”

One demonstration involves personal protective equipment. Students ask questions and learn how to properly use the gear. 3M, one of the program’s sponsors, provides every student with a package of protective equipment.

“We will show them how to use it, what it is used for and how to get more if they need it.”

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