Farm safety experts have a harsh message for parents with children working on a farm: "It’s easier to bury a tradition than a child." An average of 300 children are killed every year nationwide doing to farm work. This is National Farm Safety and Health week, dedicated to the hard work, diligence and sacrifices of our nation’s farmers. Dr. Paul Gunderson, retired director of the National Farm Medicine Center, says some areas of the farm are no place for kids.
Gunderson says, "The message is really very straightforward and it is simply that children need to be children and not engage in production activities on American farms." Gunderson says while up to 300 kids die on farms annually, thousands more are injured.
He says: "The most common injuries are those associated with livestock and with tractors. With livestock, it’s injuries associated with being stepped on, butted, pinched and crushed. The injuries associated with tractors are primarily run-overs." Gunderson says the message is short and simple — farms are dangerous places for children. Eight out of ten American farms where children are present will involve their kids in various aspects of adult type risks.
He says: "The tradition that children will ride with dad, that they’ll farm with dad, is no longer applicable in the contemporary agriculture work site of today. It is simply too risky." Dr. Susanna Von Essen is a physician in Omaha/Council Bluffs and says supervision plays a key role in keeping children safe.
Von Essen says, "I did work on the farm when I was growing up although my dad wouldn’t let me operate machinery or drive a tractor. At the time, I thought that was really unfair but now I’m glad." The National Safety Council offers more tips to farm families: don’t let children roam freely on the farm. Design a fenced safe play area near the house and away from work activities. Inspect your farm on a regular basis for hazards that can injure wandering children.
Children who are physically able to be involved in farm work should be assigned age-appropriate tasks and continually trained on how to correctly do the task. All equipment in barns, farm shops, chemical storage areas, livestock pens should have latches that can be locked or secured so kids cannot enter. Never carry children on tractors and equipment or invite them into the shop, barn or grain bin.