How Close is too Close?

By: Heidi Wagner, Progressive Agriculture Safety Day Coordinator of Woolwich Community Health Centre in St. Jacobs, Ontario

This fall, we all heard the story in the news about the three sisters that were killed on their family farm during harvest season. They were playing in the grain wagon filled with canola seeds and were pulled under the surface once the unloading chute was opened at the bottom. Two of the sisters were pronounced dead at the scene while the third sister later died at the hospital.

A few weeks earlier there was a similar incident where a young boy fell into the grain wagon while trying to retrieve his hat. His grandfather tried to get him out and fell in himself. There were two lives lost that day as well.

There has been some controversy in the agricultural community about how close children should be while farm work is being done. Parents want to introduce their youngsters to the joys and satisfaction of crop and animal production and teach them the value of “a good day’s work”. These are all admiral qualities that children growing up on the farm have. They understand that it takes hard work and determination to make a living at farming.

However, are farm families being too lax with their children’s safety? Large equipment and unpredictable animals pose many hazards for young people still unable to recognize dangers and inexperienced enough to react to avoid injury. Would a factory worker be allowed to bring his child to work in an industrial plant? There are many rules and laws that would prohibit this from happening. There are no rules in place to protect farm children from the getting hurt in the workplace where they live every day!

It is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children about dangers on their farm, where they should play and what areas are off limits to them and their friends and what to do in case something does go wrong. Children need to be taught at a young age that when their parents are “working” they need to stay back out of harm’s way. Grain wagons, tractors and animal pens are not suitable play areas for unsupervised children.

Unfortunately, there will probably be more fatalities in the farming community. Many of them will be young children that were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is every parent’s responsibility to try to keep their children safe, to grow up to be healthy adults. Some of these children may even become involved with agriculture as well. We hope that each generation will be more safety conscience than the last, since equipment gets bigger and more powerful and acreages get larger.

It is better to prepare and prevent than repair and repent! Wishing farmers a safe 2016 as you grow food to feed a hungry population!

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