For the week of Mar. 26, 2018

Make it a safe spring planting season

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

Long hours, less-than-ideal weather conditions and working around large machinery combine to make farming one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. This spring planting season slow down and ensure you and your family members stay safe.

During 2017, 10 deaths were reported in farm and ranch incidents in Kansas. The youngest fatality involved a nine-year-old extra rider on a tractor who fell off and was caught in the mowing attachment.

The oldest occurred when an 82-year-old male passenger died from injuries after being thrown during a tractor rollover. Tractor overturns remain the single greatest cause of death to young farm workers under the age of 25 and to older workers over the age of 55, according to statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The most effective way to prevent tractor overturn deaths is the use of a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS). In 2012, 59 percent of tractors used on farms in the United States were equipped with ROPS. If ROPS were placed on all tractors used on U.S. farms manufactured since the mid-1960s, the prevalence of ROPS-equipped tractors could be increased to more than 80 percent.

Growing up and working on the farm instills a life-long love of agriculture, but as adults and parents, we must make sure everyone on the farm is safe.

On average, 113 youth less than 20 years of age die annually from farm-related injuries (1995 -2002), with most of these deaths occurring to youth 16-19 years of age.

Of the leading sources of fatal injuries to youth, 23 percent involved machinery (including tractors), 19 percent involved motor vehicles (including ATVs), and 16 percent drowned.

Riders on tractors remain another major cause of injuries and deaths on the farm. No riders should be allowed on a tractor unless it is equipped with a manufacturer-approved second seat, according to the National Safety Council.

Farmers, parents, children and the American public must understand, once and for all, that anyone other than the operator of a farm tractor should not be on the tractor – period. Any rider is at tremendous risk to be seriously injured or killed.

 Always be aware of surroundings and think ahead. Look out for potential hazards. Notice power lines before moving ladders or other farm equipment. Turn off that combine before removing weeds and other debris.

One cardinal rule to remember always – keep children out of the workplace. That means away from machinery, storage bins and fields – anywhere they are in harm’s way.

 Prepare for emergencies. Enroll in safety classes, especially CPR and first aid. Carry safety kits in your farm vehicles. Make sure you have them in your home and sheds.

Above all, take a little extra time this upcoming spring planting season. Make a genuine commitment to safe preparation. Your health and that of your family depend on the safe operation of your farm equipment during this busy season.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.