Farming is one of the nation’s most hazardous occupations, but it’s been getting safer to raise a family on the farm for more than two decades, according to a new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The rate of childhood injuries on farms and ranches has dropped by nearly 60 percent since 1998, thanks to effective research and awareness efforts, the study reported.
"I think what’s really helping reduce these numbers is the amount of education that is taking place for the farmers," said Jimmy Maass, safety manager for Virginia Farm Bureau. "One of the more interesting programs is focused on safe play areas. Research has been done and drawings and plans made to show farmers what they can do to create a safe play area on the farm for their children.
"In a lot of farm families there’s one person farming and one person working off the farm, and child care is pretty expensive. So keeping the children on the farm is one way for them to afford to do what they do. But they have to be safe, too."
The report, which was conducted for NIOSH by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, noted that farm operators are more likely to view injuries to children as predictable and preventable. Maass noted that many farm families now ban their children from certain work areas.
"The equipment is very dangerous, whether it’s running or not," he said. "Look at a big disc implement. If a child is playing and falls on one of them, the blades are very sharp. There’s also a lot of equipment that a child may get into to hide."
But there’s still more work to be done to change attitudes, he added.
"It’s still prevalent, but we’re seeing fewer people allowing their children to ride on the tractor with them. If we can get the parents or grandparents to stop letting the kids ride on the tractor with them, we’ve come a long way."
Most farm equipment is intended to safely carry only one person — the driver.