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Virtual Farm Safety Days allow broader reach during pandemic

Organizers optimistic 2022 will see a return to in-person programming

A recent report showed children aged one to four have the highest rate of fatalities.

Glacier FarmMedia – The traditional Safety Farm Days are missing from most farm communities’ calendars this year.

A valued tradition, Progressive Agriculture Foundation (PAF) Farm Safety Days, in partnership with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), have helped hundreds of thousands of rural and farm kids learn how to stay safe while working and playing on the farm, especially during busy times like harvest.

Why it matters: Safety awareness can help prevent on-farm tragedies and farm safety groups have had to pivot to virtual learning opportunities.

“There were three cities in Canada that ran a (Farm Safety Day) program in 2020, but of course, they were all in the first two months,” said Robin Anderson, CASA communications lead.

Canada hosts 75 to 90 Farm Safety Days a year on average. Some events may run this fall, but COVID-19 cancelled almost all 2021 events.

“We let those coordinators make those calls on their own for their own community, their own province,” said Anderson. “That’s what makes Farm Safety Day events so great — they are by the community, for the community.”

Anderson encourages organizations to apply for 2022 dates before the July 15, 2021, deadline and is optimistic there will be a return to in-person events by then.

In response to the pandemic, CASA and PAF developed interactive hubs to provide farm families and communities with safety information.

In partnership with BASF, CASA developed an interactive BeGrainSafeGame. They worked closely with the National Children’s Center for Rural Agricultural Health and Safety of Wisconsin to provide up-to-date safety information and linked to PAF’s “Daily Drop” safety videos. People could also borrow farm safety teaching kits for the cost of shipping.

“All kids aren’t the same, but it’s important to understand their limitations when starting to assign farm tasks,” Anderson said. “We recommend taking a look at the Ag Youth Work Guidelines to help parents and caregivers determine what tasks are suitable for each individual.”

Anderson said Cultivate Safety is a valuable resource to keep children safe while at play on the farm.

Statistics from the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting Child and Youth Agriculture-Related Fatalities in Canada 2006-15 report showed children aged one to four have the highest rate of fatalities. Most involve being run over by a piece of machinery. Children ages 10 to 14 are more likely to die in a rollover.

Children aged one to four also had the highest percentage of drowning fatalities, with half the deaths occurring in dugouts. In all seven of the asphyxiation fatalities, the children were older than four, and 86 per cent involved grain or silage. Two incidents involved deaths of more than one child.

Statistics show two out of every three fatalities involving children or youth are runovers (29 per cent), rollovers (15 per cent), drowning (12 per cent), and asphyxiation (eight per cent).

The numbers are grim, but Logan Hall, PAF communications manager, is optimistic the online platforms featuring 70 health and safety videos developed in 2020 continue to allow the Farm Safety Day program to impact a wider audience of adults and children.

“We are dedicated to educating, training and providing resources until no child would become ill, injured or die from an agriculture-related incident,” said Hall.

Ongoing safety education is even more critical during the pandemic because more children are at home during the day, potentially increasing risk.

Training for volunteers has moved permanently online using a work at your own pace format, with additional booster sessions offered at no extra cost.

The Canadian Safety Day coordinator recently told Hall a virtual Farm Safety Day with 15 participants was held, and despite worries of Zoom overload, the course was a success.

According to reports, the children were engaged and the parents and guardians appreciated the versatility of the information toward the younger audience.

There are 441 approved Safety Days planned for 2021 in North America and 200 applications already submitted for 2022, said Hall.

The Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) Child and Youth Agriculture-related Fatalities in Canada 2006-2015 report showed:

Ag-related fatalities by gender:

  • Males – 74 per cent
  • Females – 26 per cent

(Children under five represented the highest age-specific rate)

Child fatalities in relation to agriculture-related work:

  • 82 per cent (68 children) died as a result of someone else performing agriculture related work.
  • Of the 84 ag-related fatalities, 68 per cent were ag-work related. The remaining 32 per cent involved a farm environment such as riding horses and ATVs and falling into dugouts and troughs.

Diana Martin is a reporter with Farmtario. Her article appeared in the June 28, 2021 issue.

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