Teaching safety to youth

Laura Nelson said many families have shared their stories with the centre during its 17 years of safety education programming for rural schoolchildren.

Families often approach the centre, hoping to strengthen what it does by sharing their own stories, said Nelson.

“Families come to us because they don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Nelson, who cited stories of a child telling an adult it’s not safe to ride along in the tractor or how helmets saved one Hutterite boy from a major head injury when he fell off his horse.

In another example, a boy’s boots likely saved him from more than a broken leg when his motor vehicle collided with a tractor.

Nelson recalled how a three minute video about a family who lost someone in a dugout drowning led to a Grade 2 student sharing her own story.

She told her classmates that she and her sister had also fallen into water, but only she was saved.

“It was such a moment. She really wanted her classmates to know it can really happen,” said Nelson.

The centre’s eight instructors, who are drawn from farming communities, travel 135,000 kilometres a year to give safety presentations in 550 rural schools.

Presentations are tailored to the grade level and areas of concern for that age group, with a focus on drownings and approaching water only with adult supervision for Grade 2 and a stay safe, play safe message for Grade 1.

“When close to machines, there’s a chance they don’t see you,” Nelson said.

Heeding warnings to play near the house and enter the farmyard only with adult supervision can reduce the risk.

“If they would only do those things, many serious incidents would never happen,” said Nelson.

Programming for older children focuses on riding and speed.

“When you’re a young rider, you’re still learning. It might be wise not to injure friends or siblings by giving them rides,” she said.

“We encourage them to reflect on what they do and how it might impact their own safety and those around them.”

Handouts are sent home to spread the message to families, but a new pilot project called Sustainable Farm Families is also addressing health and safety concerns on the farm.

“It’s a good complementary piece to what we do,” she said.

“Often it’s the human resources that gets forgotten, and that has an impact on the business.”

She said farm children live in an industrial work site, and their growing up experience is unique.

“Would you take your three-year-old with you if you were a heavy machine operator in downtown Calgary?” she said.

“Of course not, but a three-year-old lives on the farm that has heavy equipment.”

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation organizes safety days across North America that also take the safety message to schools and communities.

The safety days are often open to the entire community or they may be customized for specific schools, classes or age groups.

Participants are divided into small groups of 10 to 15, which rotate between stations where fun, hands-on activities and demonstrations are part of each lesson.

Margie Yellowega, a public health nurse in Airdre, Alta., has helped co-ordinate Progressive Ag Safety Days in her region.

Last year, she said the farm safety day was held in conjunction with Carstairs Beef and Barley Days. This year, the event will be held May 6 in Didsbury.

During the past four years, the event has looked at tractors and other farm equipment, farm hazards, chemical look-alikes, firearm safety, helmets, sun safety, water safety, animal safety, first aid kits, disability awareness and hearing loss.

“The benefits to the participants are a hands-on interactive way to learn about potential dangers on a farm where adults and children share space for work-play-leisure,” Yellowega said.

“It opens their eyes to things they may have done for years without thinking about how injuries could occur. It demonstrates practical ways to make their farm space safer.”

  • Machinery: Children can fall from tractors operated by an adult, often when an operator starts a machine without knowing the child is in the area. Never let children ride on farm tractors.
  • Flowing grain: It takes only two or three seconds to become trapped in flowing grain. Crushed or bridged grain can suddenly collapse. Flowing grain in bins and wagons can drag an unsuspecting victim down like quicksand. Make grain bins and work areas off-limits to children.
  • Livestock: Even good-tempered animals can become dangerous. Cattle can knock down and trample a toddler without noticing the child is there. A calm animal can become dangerous if it or its offspring feel threatened. Keep children away from animals, especially in livestock handling areas.
  • Pesticides and other chemicals: Keep children away from farm chemicals. Store the chemicals in a cabinet, room or building that can be locked. Ensure they are in their original containers and properly labelled. Never throw chemical containers or small leftover amounts in the garbage or other areas where children may go.
  • Keep children younger than six off farm worksites and driveways.
  • Stop the motor and pocket the key before getting off a tractor.
  • Refuse to carry or be a passenger on tractors or off-highway vehicles.
  • Drive a tractor with roll-over protective structures. Always use the seatbelt.
  • Move slowly and quietly around animals. Always be alert around livestock, and plan an escape route.
  • Protect young children by locking barns, farm shops, chemical storage areas, livestock pens and grain bins and silos and fencing open water.
  • Find out if children older than seven are ready to do chores by answering questions from www.nagcat.org.

Also in this Special Report:

Contact karen.morrison@producer.com

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