Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in the nation. During this hectic harvest season it is important to acknowledge the one million children who live on U.S. farms. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, there are approximately 100 unintentional injury deaths, and an additional 22 000 injuries to children younger than 20 years on farms every year.
Many agricultural accidents can be prevented with basic safety precautions and proper adult supervision, said emergency medicine physician Howard Schumaker, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic Health System, who has treated many farming traumas over the years. “We’ve seen everything from broken bones, amputations, to unfortunate traumatic situations,” Schumaker said. “Many times, children and adolescents get hurt because they do not understand the risks that farms can have.”
Children should always be supervised and given only age-appropriate tasks. “We just want everyone to be careful this harvest season,” said Schumaker.
Mayo Clinic Health System lists how to protect children from getting hurt on farms:
• Teach your children not to run, scream, or otherwise startle an animal. Cattle and other farm animals can bite, kick, ram or even trample without warning, so always stay attentive and alert near animals.
• Never allow children to play in or near grain bins. Kids can quickly become trapped and suffocate underneath the grain.
• Keep young children away from farm equipment and make sure adolescents and/or young adults are old enough to use it. Tractor, auger and other equipment accidents are one of the most popular causes of farm injuries. Broken bones, electrocutions, and amputations can occur if children are allowed to play on or around farm equipment.
• Remind children often of how dangerous farm equipment can be to be around or operate. The advice that Schumaker’s grandfather gave him decades ago still holds true: “Treat every piece of machinery as if it is trying to hurt you. Never, ever let your guard down – the equipment is just waiting for the opportunity.”
• Large amounts of manure and silage can emit harmful gases and create oxygen-deficient, toxic, and/or explosive environment. Also, chemicals and pesticides used on crops can be dangerous if in contact with. Make sure to keep kids of all ages away from chemically hazardous environments.
• Falls are the most common cause of injury to children. Though not every fall can be prevented, parents can take help make injuries from falls less severe. Lowering heights and softening surfaces with mulch or sand can prevent the worst types of injuries. If kids are playing make sure it is no higher than 10 feet in the air and has barriers.
• Children can drown in just inches of water. And just because a child knows how to swim, it doesn’t mean they are safe from drowning. If your farm has ponds, lakes or streams, create a fencing system to prevent children from falling in. Also, install rescue posts, rope and a life buoy near any large body of water.