Perspectives Online

Accent on Prevention

Personal perspectives on farm safety highlight presentations at March workshop. by Terri Leith


Master Sgt. Kevin Bennett explains the laws governing ATV use in North Carolina.
All photos by Becky Kirkland

“You never think it will happen to you.”

That was the haunting refrain behind the safety messages delivered at the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids workshop at the Johnston County Extension Center March 12. There an audience of more than 80 participants heard about farm safety and health programs for children, youth and families at the event coordinated locally by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, N.C. Agromedicine Institute/AgriSafe North Carolina, N.C. Farm Bureau and Ashe/Alleghany Rural Community Safety 4 All Seasons. The workshop was sponsored by USDA Risk Management Agency through a grant to the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK ) organization.

Tyrone Fisher, Harnett County Extension livestock agent, listens attentively to a workshop presentation.
Leading off the event was speaker Edsel Beck, a farmer from Sparta, in Alleghany County. Beck described in vivid detail how he lost both his arms in an accident as he operated a hay baler. Beck, who endured 15 operations before he could get a prosthesis in place of one of his arms, told the group, “People couldn’t believe this happened to me, because I had done this [hay baling] for so many years, but sooner or later you’re careless or your mind is on something else.

“The worst part of it was the hardship brought on my family. If you’re in an accident, it doesn’t just happen to you,” he said.

Accidents may or may not be possible to stop, he added, “but we can remind people that the signs on the sides of machines are there for a reason.”

Robin Tutor, interim director of the N.C. Agromedicine Institute introduced the workshop presentations, which included Master Sgt. Kevin Bennett of the Greensboro Police Department, who spoke about ATV safety, and Sheila Higgins R.N., M.P.H., of the N.C. Division of Public Health, discussing kids and pesticide exposure. Also among other speakers and panelists were Shari Burgus, FS4JK education director, and Tyler Vacha, FS4JK chapter and membership coordinator.

At the ATV safety exhibit, a mannequin wearing the proper head-to-toe safety apparel greets visitors.
Citing a 2006 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report, Tutor said, “Given that injury rates for household youths less than 20 years of age on U.S. farms is greater in the Southeast than in any other part of the country -- 12.5 per 1,000 -- we have a responsibility to address this issue as aggressively as possible.”

Bennett, who partners with N.C. Safe Kids, specializes in ATV safety programs. He spoke of the vulnerability to injury on the farm of youths under the age of 20, particularly between the ages of 10 and 15, and when it comes to ATV accidents, even younger.

“In 2007, 2,638 people went to emergency rooms due to ATV accidents, and these are the ones that were reported, “ Bennett said. “In 2007, we lost 35 people to ATV accidents, and 50 percent of these were kids in the 8 to 13 age range.

“What bothers us is this preventable,” he said. “Our goal is to get the trends stopped and these numbers down.”

Brochures, samples (such as earplugs and sunscreen) and other handouts were available at exhibits throughout the room.
To that purpose, Bennett has teamed with North Carolina 4-H, Cooperative Extension’s youth education program, to offer training to ATV owners. “4-H is the leader in ATV safety in the United States,” Bennett said. “We’re offering free training classes to ATV owners and seminars in schools and even did TV spots to reach kids and owners.”

Among the lessons they’re trying to teach are the importance age-appropriate ATV sizes and the need for proper attire. “Riders must wear helmets and goggles,” Bennett said. “ The leading ATV injury is to the eye and also to the ankle. ATVs are not toys. They will kill you; they will hurt you. There are 500,000 ATVs in North Carolina, and 3,000 sold every year.”

In 2005, North Carolina passed a law pertaining to ATV safety – about 25 years after other states did so, Bennett said. The law set 8 years old as the youngest age a child can ride a small ATV – 12 on the larger size – and mandated that every ATV operator born after 1990 has to have a training certificate. But that age threshold is still younger than safety activists like Bennett would wish, so they continue their crusade of education.

A tractor with the appropriate rollover protective structures was on display in the Johnston County Center parking lot.
“All 4-H agents in North Carolina can help you set up ATV training programs,” Bennett said.

Workshop participants included “mainly educators,” said Bryant Spivey, Johnston County Extension director, who noted Extension and 4-H agents and migrant Head Start staff, as well as Farm Bureau and N.C. Agromedicine personnel, among the attendees.

In addition to the speakers’ information, a wealth of educational material was available at exhibits throughout the room. Exhibitors included Health Check/Health Choice for Children, N.C. Agromedicine Institute/AgriSafe North Carolina, the N.C. Farm Bureau Safety Program, Ashe/Alleghany Rural Community Safety 4 All Seasons, N.C. Safe Kids, N.C. Cooperative Extension and the Wilson County Farm Services Agency. Brochures and educational handouts covered ATV safety, pesticide safety, hearing loss prevention, creating safe play areas on farms, tractor rollover protective structures (ROPS), wearing sunscreen and hats -- and offered guidance in understanding the Agricultural Health Study.

Blood pressure checks were available along with health maintenance information provided to workshop participants.
At the end of the day, Tutor said, “The event was a tremendous success with numerous requests from participants for additional information and future workshops.”