With more than one-third of tractor fatalities nationwide involving young riders, a new crop of future farmers like Kansas teenager Tucker Allen are becoming educated in vital, lifesaving farm safety. Tucker, a 14-year-old from Haddam, Kan., and a half-dozen other young Kansas teens devoted the entire day Saturday May 11, to a Belleville, Kan., workshop so they could learn safety procedures and get in compliance with federal law. That law requires youth ages 14 and 15 to participate in a Hazardous Occupations Safety Training in agriculture and become certified, before they can work for anyone other than their parents, in agricultural businesses.
“I will be working this summer on my grandpa’s farm,” shared Tucker, who actively volunteered to participate in several mock scenarios; showing teens how to stay safe on the farm.
Another teenager; 14-year-old Eli Ohlde of Clyde, Kan., plans to help his dad during the upcoming wheat harvest in Washington County, Kan.
“I live in town, but my dad owns land out in the county, and I’ll help him. He owns Ohlde Dairy Farm in Washington,” said Eli.
The training was vivid; offering hands-on training combined with vital classroom safety instruction, while recapping sobering, tragic details of farm accidents that occurred in the region.
“Accidents caused the deaths of more people aged 15 to 24 than all other causes; with one out of five farm accidents involving farm machinery. Most farm accidents occur when a tractor is parked,” said John Forshee, Director of Kansas State University’s Research and Extension; River Valley District. Twenty-seven-percent of the accidents happened when farm machinery was stopped and not running. “These were accidents such as falls from equipment, and a hydraulic failure of raised equipment; allowing equipment to fall on the operator, as well as improper use of tools and wrenches while working on equipment, or other causes,” said Forshee. Another 20-percent of farm accidents occurred when farm machinery was stopped and still running. “In these cases, it can be when a tractor or equipment is not in park, and rolls; pinning the operator. Also, augers coming in contact with power lines is a dangerous combination. Another hazard is augers tipping over, and other problems,” Forshee noted. Forshee, whose extension district offered the training, began the program with invaluable advice.
“Although the overturning of a vehicle can occur in one second, an operator’s reaction can take longer,” he advised the group. Forshee’s myriad tips include:
■ Use mounting assist handles when getting on or off a tractor.
■ Never attempt to start/or stop a tractor except in the operating seat. (If a person is standing on the ground and leans in to start it, the tractor can lunge forward and run over someone.)
■ Wait for the tractor to stop, before dismounting.
■ Never run the tractor engine in a closed building without adequate ventilation (to avoid getting overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning.)
■ Be sure cab doors are securely latched, when operating a tractor.
■ Always wear a seatbelt when a tractor is equipped with ROPS (Rollover Protection Structure.)
■ Study the operator’s manual on tractor’s controls.
■ Carry a First Aid kit on every tractor.
Acknowledging that the need to please a boss may initially cause some job anxiety, Forshee equipped the kids with a way to handle the top priority; job safety.
“Tell your employer: that you don’t fully understand what needs to be done, and ask if they can take a moment to show you, before you crawl into a tractor cab or handle some other machinery. Remind them that you want to handle this expensive piece of machinery properly,” Forshee suggested; questioning, “Ultimately, what’s your life worth?”
Next, a Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper; fully clad in law enforcement-blues; made an immediate impression as he took over the podium with bold reasons to promote safety.
Noting that Kansas law mandates a Farm Permit for people 14-years-old who live on a farm and help operate farm equipment, Trooper Ben Gardner reminded the youngsters that driving is a privilege.
“If people give you a vehicle to drive, that’s several thousands and thousands of pounds of vehicle that can really cause some major damage, destruction, injury or death. That’s why we give some limitations with a little bit of what we’ll allow you to do while someone is sitting next to you, and helping correct you, to make you a better driver,” stated the Trooper.
For young teens operating farm equipment, Trooper Ben implored them to prepare for a ‘What If’ situation.
“When you display the slow-moving vehicle red triangle emblem while your tractor is pulling an implement, it lets the motorists behind you know that you’re not driving over 25 miles per hour,” said the State Trooper. “Also, any implement after 1975 must have at least two head lamps to meet requirements. Do a walk-a-round to be sure your vehicle is safe,” cautioned Trooper Ben. “And, be sure that your lights are not so dirty so when you use the brakes, other motorists will know that your brake lights are actually on,” he warned. “Hey, I can motivate you to do this because it’s the law and I’ll give you a ticket. But, your focus should be that you want to do it right because it’s the safe thing to do,” added the Trooper.
Trooper Ben reminded his young audience, that the Seat Belt Law in Kansas mandates that travelers at every age in a vehicle must be buckled up.
“From birth to death in Kansas, front seat, back seat-you must wear a seatbelt at all times; properly fastened. Not tucked under your arm or wrapped behind you, which is a violation of the law,” declared the Highway Patrolman.
Then, Trooper Ben took the teens outside, and, using equipment called a Seat Belt Convincer, the young farmers learned what a crash impact is like at just five miles an hour. Two teens participated in the sloped seat-belted mechanical simulated crash test.
Respecting the dangers of Anhydrous Ammonia was another safety topic.
“The first thing Anhydrous looks for is water, and since most humans are made up of over 70-percent water, it will attack the lungs, eyes and skin. Anhydrous will pull water out of a person’s cells ... and then you have a burn,” said Trooper Ben. “The best treatment is lots and lots of water. When working with Anhydrous, be certain to wear gloves, safety glasses, goggles — anything and everything you can to protect yourself, and have water available.”
Being equipped with a multi-purpose fire extinguisher, is another recommendation.
“Don’t put out a grease fire with water, and don’t use water on an electrical fire. Get a multi-purpose fire extinguisher,” advised Forshee.
When the safety training amped-up regarding horrific accidents involving the PTO and Grain Bins, the details were graphic; conveying the importance of not rushing, but instead carefully taking time to put necessary safety measures into practice. Forshee advised the young farmers that conditions can and do change.
“Be extra careful climbing up a grain bin, because moisture could accumulate on it; causing someone to slip and fall,” said Forshee.
Then-there’s the danger of possible suffocation inside volatile flowing grain inside a grain bin. Blaine Van Meter, Director of Republic County, Kan., Emergency Medical Services (EMS) warned farmers about the extremely high-risk of working on and in grain bins.
“If you are using a sweep-auger in a grain bin, remember: augers are continuously running inside. And, if you enter a bin with flowing grain and you start slipping into the grain, don’t panic,” warned Van Meter. “Every time you move, the small grains; especially milo and wheat get packed, and it gets more dangerous.” Van Meter, who recently participated in special training for grain bin emergencies, has an important tip.
“If you are inside, in order to escape the swirling grain, start walking yourself in circles to reach the outside edge of the bin,” said Van Meter. After sharing a doubly-devastating ending to a story about a man who jumped in a grain bin to save another man, Van Meter said, “Make sure you have complete safety knowledge before you go in the bin. Put a sign outside to alert someone that you’re inside the grain bin,” he suggested.
“One person in ... and one person out — who’s around you, and who could call 911 in an emergency,” said Van Meter. “The number one rule: take care of yourself first. Shut-off power, do what you can, but don’t become a second tragic victim.”
Trooper Ben also heightened the safety awareness level, with a horrific story about a man working on farm equipment, whose clothing suddenly and rapidly got caught up in the violent turning of the PTO (Power Take-Off) shaft.
“We get so lazy sometimes. We wanna be quick and fast, and just get things done, because you want to do maintenance on that shaft, and you don’t want all the (safety) guards on it. Sometimes we need to leave some things alone. That guy reached up, they were doing some other things ... and his loose clothing hooked onto that unprotected PTO shaft, and it ripped his arm right off. It took his chest, and his pec (pectoral) muscle right off also, at the same time. He didn’t have time to react. He went along for the ride,” relayed Trooper Ben. “Fortunately, somebody was able to shutdown the motor and get Emergency Response and the man was flown to a hospital.”
Holding up a sweatshirt with a dangling cord that ties under the hood, and an electric drill, the teens watched with amazement as Forshee buzzed the cord rapidly around the drill bit; simulating a PTO accident.
“I didn’t learn just one thing today; I learned a lot,” Tucker reflected. “I learned that a little piece of clothing or string can get caught up.”
“I learned a lot too,” said Eli, who also appreciated the invaluable safety training.
“Be trained!” urged Forshee. “So if something happens, it’s second-nature that you’re trained and know what to do.” ❖