In light of the Oct. 23 farming accident in Dickinson County that resulted in the death of a 5-year-old girl, some people are raising questions about the measures taken to ensure children’s safety on farms.
There are several laws in place to protect farm children that still allow them to be involved on their family ranch. One issue that legislators struggle with is balancing safety without hindering the experience and learning of the children.
“I gained a lot of responsibility growing up on a farm,” Lacey Gabriel, sophomore in agriculture, said. “I learned about work ethic and caring for animals. It shaped the kind of person I am.”
Rules concerning hazardous occupations, which include operating heavy machinery and working alone with animals, are stricter to help prevent accidents. In the case of the Dickinson County child, she was not operating machinery but instead sitting in the cab of the combine with her father when he hit a bump. As a result, she fell through the front glass and into the header, according to the Salina Post.
According to Holly Higgins, director of operation, farm safety and ag education for the Kansas Farm Bureau, KFB is one of 23 Farm Bureaus across the nation making farm safety a top priority.
One way the KFB is working to protect Kansas kids is by educating children about farm safety. Across Kansas, 89 county Farm Bureaus have conducted safety programs which help to reach thousands of children. Additionally, KFB safety staff led eight agriculture safety programs with each having over 1000 students present.
“We support a farm safety program focused on educating children and families about safe and age appropriate tasks on the farm and efforts to reduce farm accidents, injuries and fatalities on the farm with an emphasis on education and voluntary programs,” Higgins said.
Most children who grew up on farms stand by fact the that their parents looked out for their best interest and wouldn’t assign them a task they weren’t able to do, or wasn’t safe.
“Not letting kids help on their farm would make a huge difference on family farms,” Gabriel said. “Most family farms don’t have enough money to hire tons of help and the kids gain so much from being able to help. It’s how it’s been done for years for a reason.”
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, about 519,000 youth under the age of 20 live and work on a farm. On average, 113 youths die annually due to a farm-related injury.
“Unfortunately farm accidents do happen,” Higgins said. “We know about that firsthand. We do need to remember though that no one cares more about a child than their parents or family.”