Youth Farm and Rural Safety is No Accident

Warm weather has been teasing us and soon will be here to stay a while! Youth will be outside sooner with school e-learning ending earlier than the normal school year. Physical injury would be more likely to occur where safety precautions and rules have not been established. Flowing grain, riding insecurely on a tractor draw bar, using equipment improperly or extracting stuck equipment inappropriately, are a few ways rural youth become in deep trouble as they play, live and work while experiencing situations that urban counterparts do not experience. While one in five of serious grain bin incidents do involve individuals under age 22, many think of grain entrapment as the leading cause of death. Actually, tractor rollovers are the most common cause of death accounting for nearly one half of deaths in the past 20 years.

Most people can think of a time when their life passed before their eyes. Grace has been extended to myself on two occasions that both involved agricultural situations and have permanently scarred my mind with “what if” scenarios. Once was trying to place a round bale into a feeder with a tractor that was much too small and without adequate rear weight. The ground was bumpy and frozen. While the forked bucket was up high, the round bale in tow started to roll and nearly rolled down the arms of the tractor and would have crushed me in my seat. Additionally, as a child when riding on a tractor fender pulling a load of hay, my curiosity overcame me to stick my foot on the moving tractor tire to see what would happen. Yes, my foot was caught but thankfully, I was able to jerk my foot back.

In both of the previous situations, major errors were made. Equipment without adequate rear weight that was also too small is like using a dull knife to cut something. A dull knife is much more likely to hurt someone than a sharp knife used properly. Moral of the story is use the right tools and equipment for the application. In the latter situation as a child, my parents should not have allowed me to ever ride on a tractor fender or stand on a draw bar of a tractor pulling something! If an axle or hitch broke certain disaster would occur. No matter how tight one thinks they are holding on, it is still not safe…period! Thanks to safety programs, today many would not think of letting a child ride on a drawbar when towing an implement or riding on a fender of an open tractor, both practices that were commonplace more than 20 years ago in rural communities.

What causes us to do something we know we should not do? It is like the wet paint that says do not touch and what do we do? Most often we think it won’t happen to me this time or everybody else does it and nothing happened to them. More so, when in a hurry or when frustration sets in, common sense and safety go out the window.

When extracting stuck equipment, one may become angry or embarrassed and use a chain or cable not rated for the application or give a big jerk that results in a chain flying through the back of the vehicle or striking someone otherwise. Perhaps in a hurry, the safety shield or cover is not fixed or reinstalled after maintenance leaving access to high voltage, moving parts, PTO, or other dangers. Becoming blind to power lines when moving augers, elevators or other tall equipment or simply playing outdoors can quickly get one into trouble. Stop to think, become aware of surroundings and don’t make bad decisions.

The growing season has advanced quickly during the past week, please take time to make sure particularly youth are knowledgeable of risks and use safety equipment. Have a tailgate meeting to discuss safety with family and staff, and think about the fact that your family members need you. You are too valuable to risk your life by taking short cuts that will eventually burn you with an injury or worse.

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