Farms seem like beautiful, safe places, but they can present dangers to those living and working on them.

Children can be at particular risk unless precautions are taken. Sept. 16 through 22 has been set aside as National Farm Safety and Health Week with the theme this year of “Kids #1 in 2001.”

Herb Willcutt, agricultural engineer with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said Mississippi has relatively few children working in agriculture, but two or three children are killed in farm-type accidents each year.

“The primary precaution I would suggest is to have a safe place for your children to play on farms,” Willcutt said. “An actual farming operation is not a safe place for children to play. Parked equipment may have sharp edges which easily cut skin, and improperly stored equipment may be in danger of falling.”

Children are in danger when they are allowed as riders on farm equipment and when equipment is left in an unsafe manner. Lower equipment completely, lock cabs and remove keys when finished using farm equipment so children cannot hurt themselves on the machinery.

Flowing grain, conveyors and grain augers are fascinating to watch in operation, but are also a real danger to kids, as is playing in fields and not being seen by equipment operators.

Mississippi typically has between 18 and 24 deaths a year related to agricultural equipment. About half of these are from tractor rollovers, usually of older tractors not equipped with rollover protective structures and other safety devices.

The second most frequent cause of death is from being run over with tractors or equipment. These victims are often passengers or people caught between equipment when it is started.

“Many people take chances,” Willcutt said. “The best prevention on overturns is to install a rollover protective structure. At $500 to $800 for most tractors, it's cheaper than a funeral.

“Second, maintain equipment in a state of readiness so that it will start from the seat and do the job without a breakdown.”

Willcutt said most farm deaths occur to non-commercial farmers, those people who farm a few acres in their spare time or who maintain a rural homestead. Many of these use older equipment without safety features and often are not very familiar with how to operate it.

Even those who don't live or work on a farm can do their part to improve the safety of the industry.

“Farm equipment is moved on the roadways daily,” Willcutt said. “We encourage farmers to travel the road during off-times of the day and mark equipment so it can be easily seen and readily recognized.

“Motorists should be on the lookout for these pieces of equipment and take necessary precautions. Watch for passing and oncoming traffic, sudden turns and lane changes as they dodge such things as sign posts and bridge abutments.”


Bonnie Coblentz writes for Mississippi State University Ag Communications.