Proper Hand Hygiene Helps Prevent the Spread of Germs

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Now that spring has sprung, hopefully the cold and flu season will soon be history. One way we can guard ourselves against potential germs is by actively washing our hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is like a “do it yourself” vaccine. However, there are no needles needed for this vaccine, it only takes soap, water, and a little of your time.

Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Unfortunately, with our busy schedules we sometimes don’t take the time to wash our hands as often as we should. Washing hands should be done when taking part in any of the following activities:

  • Preparing or eating food
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Treating wounds or injuries
  • Caring for a sick or injured person
  • Touching an animal or handling pet food
  • Blowing your nose, as well as coughing or sneezing in your hands
  • Shaking hands with others
  • Handling garbage, household chemicals, or anything else contaminated

We accumulated a variety of germs from our day-to-day interactions and can easily infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose, or mouth. Washing hands properly and effectively requires the following steps:

  1. Wet hands with running water.
  2. Apply soap (liquid, powder, or bar).
  3. Work into a lather and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds. For young children, encouraging them to sing songs, such as the “ABC song” or “Happy Birthday” twice can help them remember to wash for a set amount of time.
  4. Before rinsing with clean running water, don’t forget to scrub the backs of your hands, wrist, and between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer. If possible, avoid turning off the faucet with your clean hands and use a disposable towel or your elbow.
  6. If you are unable to wash hands with soap and water, apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is recommended to use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol.

According to the Mayo Clinic, hand hygiene is especially important for children in child care settings. Young children cared for in groups outside the home are at greater risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members and other contacts.

Last year, healthy lifestyles was a topic taught at 28% of Progressive Agriculture Safety Days. These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend one of 440 Safety Days offered throughout North America. This year alone, more than 100,000 children & adults will participate in a Safety Day within their local community. Learn more at www.progressiveag.org

Photo Caption: At a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® held in Iowa, participants demonstrate proper hand washing techniques during a healthy lifestyles activity.

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Seeing is Believing – Tips to Support Eye Safety & Health

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

They say the eyes are the windows to the world! Unfortunately, thousands of Americans suffer an eye injury each day. Many of these injuries occur in the workplace including farms, where young children are actively present. Exposure to chemicals, sunlight, gases, vapors and even debris in the air can have a lasting impact on the health of your eyes. With March serving as eye safety & wellness month, we want to offer you some eye-opening tips to save your vision!

In addition to being painful, eye injuries cause many lost workdays for adults and missed school days for children. Eye injuries can also lead to permanent vision loss. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from vision loss, which in certain cases can be prevented. Following these tips will help keep your eyes safe and your vision healthy all year long:

  1. Wearing Eye Protection: Consistently wearing properly fitted safety glasses or goggles while working with or around chemicals can make a huge impact on your eyes. Additionally, safety glasses are important when riding on various farm & lawn equipment. Depending on the task, safety glasses with side shields or face shields can be used for extra protection. Proper eye protection is also necessary for many leisure activities from ATV riding to playing sports. When working outside, sunglasses can aid in preventing the development of cataracts, retinal damage, and also protect your skin from cancer. Be sure your sunglasses provide 100% ultraviolet protection from both the UVA rays and UVB rays.
  2. Eye Examinations: From an early age, children should take part in yearly eye exams. Visits with an optometrist or ophthalmologist can help determine if medical issues are prevalent including cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Other conditions such as autoimmune diseases, high cholesterol, diabetes, and thyroid conditions can also be identified in routine eye exams. Uncorrected vision problems have accounted for a variety of avoidable accidents.
  3. Proper Nutrition: Nutrition is essential in eye health. Vegetables, especially leafy green ones, should be an important part of the daily diet. Diets with higher levels of vitamin C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids can aid is eye health.
  4. Avoid Eye Fatigue: In recent years, increased use of smartphones, tablets, and computers have been shown to have an impact on our vision. If you notice eyestrain from working on one of these devices, The American Optometric Association recommends following the 20- 20-20 rule. Look up from your work every 20 minutes and focus at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you notice problems and they persist, it is important to be checked for proper prescription of eye glasses, contact lenses, as well as other medical conditions.

These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. This year, more than 100,000 children & adults will participate in a Safety Day within their local community. Learn more at www.progressiveag.org

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Photo Caption: At a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day held last spring in Minnesota, a participant demonstrates safe practices, including wearing safety goggles to provide eye protection, while assembling a bird house during a workshop on hand tool safety.

A Safe & Healthy Life Can Be Gained By Staying Out of Grain

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Growing up on a farm can be a very rewarding experience. From a young age, children have the opportunity to receive a first-rate agricultural education, learn responsibilities, gain a strong work ethic, and value our dedicated farmers. Unfortunately, with access to chemicals, animals and large equipment, farms can also be a dangerous playground for curious, unsupervised children.

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation is a proud supporter of Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety Week. Along with Nationwide, the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program is committed to reducing the number of preventable injuries and deaths associated with grain handling and storage.

Grain safety is a very significant topic taught at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days each year. In recent years, 36% of our Safety Days had a grain safety component offered. From identifying the difficulty breathing underneath grain to observing how grain flows and how quickly entrapment can take place, participants have the opportunity to take part in a variety of hand-on activities and demonstrations. The following key safety areas are emphasized with all Safety Day participants:

  1. Always stay out of flowing grain. A very sobering fact is that it only takes 5 seconds to become helpless in flowing grain and within another 10 seconds a person can become completely submerged.
  2. Never walk or play in or around stored grain.
  3. Never enter a grain bin, wagon, or truck.
  4. Never enter a grain bin while the unloading auger or suction tube is operating.

Another important issue when it comes to grain safety is to avoid confusing children by sending mixed messages. At places like pumpkin patches and local parks, sand boxes have been replaced by corn. A young child will have trouble understanding the difference between grain in a corn box and grain in a gravity flow box that could engulf them in seconds.

In addition to reinforcing the importance of staying out of grain, Safety Days also teach participants what to do in case of an emergency involving grain. These safety tips include:

  1. Turning off any equipment that is causing the grain to flow or move. This will stop the person from being pulled further underneath the grain.
  2. Always assuming the victim is alive and take the necessary measures to help the situation. This may include turning on aeriation fans and assuring dryer heat is turned off.
  3. Calling for help immediately and never attempting to pull someone out of grain on your own. Many professionals including firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s have been trained to properly use grain bin rescue equipment. With rescue tubes and training as the theme of this year’s Grain Bin Safety Week, we hope that even more fire departments in rural areas will receive the proper training and equipment to aid in a successful rescue.

These grain safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. This year, more than 100,000 children & adults will participate in a Safety Day within their local community. Learn more at http://www.progressiveag.org

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PhotoA Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® participant in Eastern Iowa realizes how much force holds people in grain by attempting to pull an object out from the grain filled container during an entrapment activity.

Are You Prepared? 8 Tips to Keep Safe in Severe Weather Conditions

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

As we kick-off the New Year, many begin making a variety of resolutions embarking on a fresh start. From quitting bad habits to vowing to be healthier, some resolutions fade quickly while others last well into the year. One thing many fail to think about is making a resolution for a safer new year. Whether adopting a new safety practice or being more consistent acting on current practices, safety should be a priority 365 days a year!

We have little to no time to prepare for inclement weather. Tornadoes, floods, blizzards, hail, ice, rain, and other storms can happen in the blink of eye. Few families have a plan in place in the event severe weather strikes while at home, on the farm, or while traveling by vehicle. Here are a few tips to help prepare you and keep you safe in the event of a weather emergency:

  • As a family project, create an emergency plan as to what you would do if severe weather hits. In many cases you have very little time to think, so having a plan in place can definitely be a life saver!
  • Severe storms can knock out power lines, so having a battery or crank-powered radio can be helpful to stay current on weather conditions. Have a flashlight, extra batteries, a supply of long-term food, and blankets stored together and easily accessible.
  • Most cellular phones have options to receive free alerts if bad weather is expected quickly, so be sure to look into signing-up to receive these messages.
  • Evaluate safety on your home or farm on a day-to-day basis to prevent damage due to a storm. Assure things like dead trees and tree branches are cut down. Don’t put potential hazards on the back burner to take care of another day, but address immediately. If time permits, secure any items around the home or farm that can be thrown around by the wind. Items such as lawn furniture and garbage cans can cause damage to property, as well as cause injury to others.
  • Although you and your family’s safety is most important, don’t forget about animals and livestock. Be sure to find them shelter in a barn, garage, or your home and make sure they have a supply of food and water.
  • Avoid standing near fireplaces, windows, and doors. For tornados and high wind storms, seek shelter in a basement or secure area.
  • Purchase or put together an emergency preparedness kit for your vehicle. From food, water, and other supplies, most kits provide a sufficient quantity lasting up to 72 hours.
  • Look into emergency response teams available in your community. Support their efforts by either becoming trained & volunteering or by making a donation of goods or money.

These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. In 2014, more than 100,000 children & adults participated in a Safety Day within their local community. Learn more at www.progressiveag.org

Outdoor Winter Safety

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

No matter the season, there is always plenty of activities that coincide with the time of year and weather. As winter approaches, family favorites like building a snowman, sledding, and ice skating will be on the rise. Those wanting a little more adventure will take part in snowmobiling or head to the slopes for skiing and snowboarding. Whichever winter activity you enjoy the best, it is important to not lose track of important safety practices.

Check the Weather – The weather can change in the blink of an eye. Always be prepared by checking your local weather report, especially if your winter activity requires travel. Having a disaster preparation kit in your car is also a great practice in case you get stranded. You never know when you or someone else you come across may need it.

Dress Appropriately – Avoid frostbite and hypothermia at all costs by covering up from head to toe. A heavy jacket, scarves, gloves/mittens, hats, snow pants, and warm boots can keep you warm while at play. Keep waterproof in mind when purchasing these items. Staying dry is essential.

Check the Ice – You can’t judge always the strength of ice simply by its appearance. Be sure to test the ice, always make sure you are not alone when participating in activities involving ice, and have a back-up plan in place in case someone falls in the ice (this may include a plastic bottle with 50’ to 70’ of nylon rope attached).

Sledding Safety – Sledding is a favorite activity of many, but tens of thousands individuals visit hospital rooms each year due to sledding incidents, including very serious head injuries. Although sledding seems like harmless fun, making sure to select a safe location is key. Avoid hillsides ending near a street, parking lot, pond, trees, and fence. Also check for other hidden obstacles like bumps, rocks, or poles. Go for snowy hills rather than icy to avoid a rough landing if you fall. It is best to sled during the daytime, but if you chose to go at night be sure the area is well-lit and potential hazards are visible. The best sleds to use are those that can be steered by the rider with brakes to slow them down. After a successful ride down a hill be sure to quickly move out of the way for others that may be following behind you.

Snow Shoveling – Although this may not be the most fun activity, shoveling is definitely a must for those with a lot of snowfall. Shoveling can be great exercise; however, individuals over the age of 40 who are relatively inactive should take it easy and not take on too much at a time without consulting their doctor. Avoid eating and smoking when shoveling. Try pushing the snow forward rather than lifting, but if you have to lift be sure to use your legs.

These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. Learn more at www.progressiveag.org

Making Safety A Priority In Your Christmas Toy Shopping Endeavors

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

As soon as we have our fill of turkey on Thanksgiving Day, many of us make our plans for Black Friday and the 26 additional shopping days to follow. On the top of many people’s lists is the must-have, latest sensations in toys! Something that many fail to keep in mind while shopping is safety. The search for the perfect gift to place under the tree can quickly be tarnished by safety recalls and hidden hazards! Of all recalled children’s items in recent years, toys have been the largest category.

Most toys today do come with safety warnings on the packaging, including where the product is made, as well as labeling as to age-appropriateness of the toy. However, in the hustle & bustle of checking off our list and getting the items before they are out of stock, many do not take the time to research these essential key warnings. In addition to dangers from choking hazards due to small pieces or faulty construction, there is the worry of lead paint and other deadly chemicals being used. Most times it is not who makes the toys that matters, but how they are manufactured. As we have seen in the past, many big name brands can still have issues with safety recalls.

Before you start making your toy list and checking it twice, be sure to follow this checklist to avoid problems down the road:

  1. Make sure the toy is age-appropriate by reading the label.
  2. Check for small, loose parts that could be swallowed by young children.
  3. Infants & toddlers love to chew on toys, so make sure no parts on the toy could easily be bitten off and swallowed.
  4. For younger children, avoid items with string, straps or ribbons longer than seven inches to evade strangulation. Also, any toys with throwing or shooting projectiles should be avoided for children under the age of eight to prevent eye-related injuries.
  5. Fabric toys should be labeled as flame retardant or flame resistant. Electrical toys with batteries or electric plugs pose a burn hazard so they should be avoided for kids under eight.
  6. Avoid puzzles, figures, and dolls with powerful magnets, as they can be fatal if swallowed by children.
  7. Look carefully for points, edges, and breakable parts that could be sharp and injury a child.
  8. If you purchase items for a child to ride on (scooter, bicycle, roller skates, etc…), make sure it is sturdy & stable and follow-up with good safety equipment like knee pads, elbow pads, & helmets.
  9. Make sure the toys have a non-toxic, durable finish and be sure they contain no unhealthy chemicals (Phthalates, lead, etc…).
  10. Before you wrap it up, check to make sure the toy has not already been recalled. With the hottest toys of today becoming the most terrifying of tomorrow, concerned parents can keep up-to-date with all the recall notifications by signing up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at cpsc.gov The website is also a great resource to use in identifying recalls of current toys your child might have. If your child has outgrown a toy and you want to donate to a thrift shop or daycare, help save the life of another child by looking into the product’s safety before it leaves your house.

Additionally, sometimes it is not necessarily the toy, but the packaging that can pose a danger to your child. Hard plastic packaging can present a hazard when opening and potentially cut a child. It is always best to leave the opening of a package and its assembly to a responsible adult. Also, it is always recommended to supervise children carefully when they play with their toys. Sometimes toys that seem safe can be dangerous if used incorrectly. If you have both older and younger children in the house, it is important to separate toys and keep potentially dangerous toys out of the reach of younger children.

Now some of this may seem like you are being overly-protective in selecting the perfect toy for your child, but you can never be too careful! According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), toy-related injuries sent almost 73,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2005. Twenty children also died from toy-related injuries that same year. More than 170 million units of jewelry — most made in China and marketed to children in this country — have been recalled since 2004, according to Scott Wolfson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Hopefully by following these simple tips and researching children’s toys before you make your final purchase, you will be embarking on a safe, healthy, & happy holiday season!