Ken Macken, Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
Keeping them safe down on the farm
Although farm accidents are down, some involving children are on the rise
For many people all across our great state of Illinois, there is no place like the farm — the sprawling acres of beautiful farmland interrupted only by beautiful large frame homes, old outbuildings and grain bins spotted throughout the landscape. Then there’s the mist and haze created by huge irrigation systems and the rare sight of the large windmill sitting in its sea of corn. It really is awesome to look upon, especially if farming is in your blood. Taking a Sunday drive down an old highway road, taking in the beautiful views of some Illinois farms is about as good as it gets. There is nothing like an Illinois farm. It really is the best place to be in the world to live and raise a family.
Though the farm can be an absolutely wonderful place to be and to visit, according to an injury fact sheet I recently found, incidents involving tractors, implements, ATVs and large animals account for many of the injuries to children on farms, according to the latest national data. However, the great news is that the rate of childhood injury on farms and ranches has declined by nearly 60 percent since 1998, an encouraging sign that research and public awareness efforts are making an impact in one of the nation’s most hazardous industries.
The rate of injuries fell 59 percent, from 16.6 to 6.8 per 1,000 farms (includes all children who live on, visit or are hired to work on farms), during the period 1998-2009. Injury rates calculated for youth who live on farms also showed a significant decline, from 18.8 to 9.9 per 1,000 farms, or 47.3 percent, according to a scientific survey conducted by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Total number of injuries to youth ages 19-and-under dropped from 37,774 to 15,011, while the number of youth living on farms dropped from 1.46 million to 1.03 million.
Beneath the overall declining injury rates, however, challenges remain, such as higher relative injury rates for all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs) and horses. An indepth analysis of 2006 data revealed a mixture of work and non-work exposures, including ATVs and horses, that likely contribute to the higher injury rates seen in farm household children, ages 10-15. For youth younger than 10, the majority of injuries were non-working injuries.
We all know that there is nothing that can draw a child in more quickly than that huge tractor on every farm. They are big, awesome, powerful and unfortunately, they are the reason some children have been hurt in the past. This is the reason for “Keep Kids Away from Tractors Campaign” the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network campaign which promotes the message that children 12-and-under should never be on
or near tractors. Visit www.childagsafety.org to find out more.
There were two terrible incidents this spring involving 4-year-olds who fell off tractors driven by their fathers — an Oklahoma boy was killed in the blades of a trailing mower and an Idaho boy was maimed in a rotary cultivator. These two incidents have refocused commitment among safety experts to stop the practice of letting children ride tractors.
Of the estimated 100-plus farm-related deaths to children each year, most will die in incidents involving tractors and other farm machinery. Your 75-pound child has no chance against your 10,000-pound tractor! Having your child ride with you on a tractor seems like such an innocent experience, but just one second of inattention, and it could create a lifetime of pain. Let’s try to establish other ways to create quality time with children other than riding on the tractor with us.
There is nothing like the Illinois farm! Let’s continue to do all we can to create the safest environment we can right there on our farms. It is the best place to be!
Ken Macken is Manger of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, 217-241-7933.