By CYNDIE SIREKIS
For the Capital Press
As winter departs and spring blooms across the country, Farm Bureaus are making safety a top priority through the Agricultural Safety Awareness Program. As a part of ASAP, March 6-12 has been designated as Agricultural Safety Awareness Week.
"Growing the Most Important Crop," this year's theme, focuses on making farms and ranches safer for farmers, their family members and employees with special emphasis on children.
People of all ages, but particularly children, are at risk of injuries on the farm. With more than 1 million youth living on farms, reaching out to adults with information on how they can reduce risks to the children in their care is critical to preventing farm and ranch incidents and fatalities.
More than half of young people living on farms and ranches pitch in doing chores, with those age 10 to 15 helping the most. Another 307,000 youth not living on farms are hired as employees each year.
"Although some progress has been made, far too many children are still injured or hurt each year on farms and ranches," explained Jimmy Maass, safety coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau. "Through participation in this program, we provide tools and information to farmers and their families about how to be safe and protect their children on the farm."
According to the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries has declined by nearly 60 percent over the last decade or so, but many children still die in farm accidents every year in the U.S. and others are injured, often seriously. Youth fatalities on farms were most often attributed to machinery -- including tractors -- followed by motor vehicles including all-terrain vehicles. Falls accounted for 40 percent of non-fatal youth injuries on farms.
That's why during Agricultural Safety Awareness Week and throughout the year, state Farm Bureaus focus on making farms and ranches safer for farmers, their family members and employees.
"Our goal is straightforward -- reach as many people as possible with a broad range of practical information on farm and ranch safety," Maass said.
The annual Ag Safety Awareness Week also recognizes the rich tradition of our nation's farming and ranching culture producing a food supply that is among the safest and most abundant in the world.
The Farm Bureau Safety and Health Network is made up of professionals affiliated with state Farm Bureaus who share an interest in decreasing safety and health risks associated with agricultural and rural life.
Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
For more information on agricultural safety, visit: http://www.agsafetynow.com .