By Lindsay Calvert
It was not too long ago that I remember experiencing the much anticipated last day of school each year. All eyes were glued to the clock as the second hand slowly crept around. The noises of foot tapping, pen clicking and chairs squeaking from all the fidgeting filled the room, drowning out the teacher's voice. Daydreams of summer and freedom flashed through the mind to the beat of Alice Cooper's first major hit single "School's Out." The moment finally came when the bell rang for the final time of the school year sending everyone into a scurry to get out of the building as fast as humanly possible.
For me, summertime meant more time working on the farm. Each summer my family produced a couple thousand small square bales of hay. The majority of the time, I had the privilege (as my dad would say) of unloading the hay from the racks onto the elevator to be sent up into the barn. With this privilege came great danger. Bales would often fall off the elevator and land near the PTO shaft that was powering the machine. Observers who didn't know what I was doing might have chuckled as I walked large circles around the PTO shaft avoiding it as if it were a plague.
The biggest motive behind my actions reached back to when I was a little girl: I saw a dummy get shredded to pieces from a PTO shaft during a farm safety demonstration. I stood there as still as I could be and completely speechless, which is saying a lot considering I was the sibling that always got in trouble for talking and singing while we worked with livestock.
Today, I am still speechless when I hear about farm accidents, especially the ones involving children.
In the news the past two weeks, we have heard about three children and two teenagers getting killed in farm accidents. Nebraska's Emily Guerra, age 2, died when she fell off a spooked horse while her father was helping to brand calves. Austin Reuter, a 7-year-old from Iowa, died after an ATV rolled over him during evening chores, and Travis Flory, a 3-year-old in Wisconsin, was killed when he was accidentally run over by a skid steer his brother was driving.
Most recently, two brothers and their father were found dead in a large manure pit on their dairy farm in Pennsylvania. Associated Press identified them as 18-year-old Kelvin Nolt, 14-year-old Cleason Nolt and their 48-year-old father Glen Nolt.
"These incidents are just a snapshot," said Tracy Schlater, Marketing Director of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. "Unfortunately, it's a continuous snapshot. We could go back two more weeks and find three or four more incidents. Farm safety has been an ongoing issue for many years."
Nearly 700 children and teenagers died between 1995 and 2000, or an estimated 139 per year, because of farm accidents. Injury rates are highest among kids age 15 and under and adults over 65, according the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The three leading causes of farm accidents are tractors, farm machinery, and livestock.
Families should do a walkthrough of the farm and discuss the hazards with their children. It's one thing to talk about safety, it's another to physically show kids where the dangers are on the farm and what they look like, Schlater said.
My dad could have just told me PTO shafts were dangerous, but I probably would have simply rolled my eyes and said, "Yeah, I know Daddy. I'm not dumb." Seeing firsthand the dangers on a farm and the possible consequences is what left a lasting impression on me.
Before your kids scurry too far out of the classroom this summer, be sure to walk through and discuss these safety tips and have everyone commit to making farm safety a priority.
TRACTOR SAFETY TIPS:
-- Do not allow passengers at any time.
-- Do not leave tractor running while performing activities.
-- Know where people are at all times.
-- Take the keys out of the tractor when you are not nearby.
FARM MACHINERY SAFETY TIPS
-- Do not wear loose-fitting clothing that could get caught.
-- Never step over a PTO shaft.
-- Make sure all equipment is working properly.
LIVESTOCK SAFETY TIPS
-- Keep children away from livestock until they understand animal behaviors and instincts.
-- Children should wear a helmet when riding horses.
-- Livestock responsibilities should match physical and mental capabilities of a child.
(For more information on how to stay safe on the farm this summer see: http://bit.ly/…)
Click here to read DTN's recent story about how a farm accident changed Kristi Ruth's life, http://bit.ly/….
Lindsay Calvert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org