In 1997, there were 705 fatal injuries and 50,544 nonfatal injuries on U.S. farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Operators and family members accounted for about 72 percent of the fatal injuries and 43 percent of the nonfatal ones.
Farming has one of the highest fatality rates of all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Farmers and farm workers generally get little formal safety training. They often work alone and are far from help if they get hurt. Many on-farm injuries happen to children.
Keep Kids Away From Machines"The biggest problem is children around machinery," said Don Bower, an Extension Service child development expert with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
"They don't have the experience or maturity," he said, "to make the important decisions required when using machines."
Keeping children away from machinery isn't just a problem on farms, but in homes as well. A lawn mower can be just as dangerous to a child as a tractor.
"Whether children want to help or adults need them to help, it's potentially dangerous," Bower said. "Machinery is so much more complex today. And parents often have unrealistic expectations about a child's ability to make good decisions in a trouble situation."
Parents often feel secure after teaching their children the proper way to run farm equipment. But that's often not enough.
"If they have to make a snap judgment, children often make a poor one," Bower said.
Always Supervise ChildrenAdult supervision is Bower's main recommendation for keeping kids safe on a farm, whether at work or play.
"Lack of supervision by adults is the No. 1 problem with kids getting in risky situations," he said. "Adults tend to think that school-agers are more able to play and work unsupervised than they are. That's when you see a spike in injuries."
Many farm accidents could be prevented if simple safety precautions were followed. To address the growing problem, Progressive Farmer magazine began a national farm safety camp.
Safety Camp Can HelpThe Progressive Farmer Farm Safety Day Camp program is a one-day, hands-on workshop that teaches farm children and their parents safe farm practices. Each year more than 60,000 children and adults participate nationwide.
Children divide into age groups in the camps to learn about animal safety, first aid, electrical safety, poison control, fire safety and tractor safety.
Two camps are offered in Georgia this summer. The first is June 21 at the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To register, call the Spalding County Farm Bureau at (770) 228-2341.
Camps tailor their lesson plans to the type of farming or ranching in their area so each program best serves the needs of its community. That made the camp a good fit for Timothy Jennings, an Extension Service agent in Fannin and Union counties.
"Our farming community here is small, so we wanted to focus more on the general safety aspects of the camp," Jennings said.
For the second year, Jennings and a local volunteer will host a camp Sept. 21 at the local elementary school for fifth graders. The camp there will focus on safety around small engines like lawn mowers, weed eaters and chain saws, plus fire, food, gun and hearing safety.
"The kids responded very positively last year, and the school officials were pleased," Jennings said. "So we hope to make it an annual event."
To find out about getting a Progressive Farmer Farm Safety Camp in your area, visit their Web site at http://www.progressivefarmer.com/safety.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)