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Farm injury rate drops overall, but increases for kids under 10

“Farming in and of itself is one of the most dangerous occupations,” points out an investigator for the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, “so to have that child in that work setting, it’s equivalent to having a child in a construction site.”

The Children’s Center, which is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, recently released its 2012 study of agricultural accidents among children. With fewer young people overall living on farms here in North Carolina and nationwide, the number of people under 20 injured on farms and ranches has been dropping. The good news is that it’s not just the total number of agricultural injuries among our youth that has declined; the rate of injuries per capita has also dropped -- except when it comes to kids under the age of 10.

Unfortunately, the rate of young children being injured on farms is way up. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of kids under 10 being hurt on farms jumped from an average of 6.6 per 1,000 to 11.3 per 1,000. NIOSH hasn’t completed its breakdown of the causes yet, but the Children’s Center investigator suspects that most of them weren’t actually performing farm work but were simply in dangerous areas without sufficient supervision.

Lack of child care at unpredictable times or irregular hours can be a major problem for parents who farm. Particularly at harvest time or when workers are on vacation, parents often find themselves without a spare pair of hands to take care of kids too young to stay in the house alone. Unfortunately, farms can be all-too-dangerous for young children.

In the past, surveys of agricultural accidents among young kids have indicated the most common causes of injury are falls; being too close to hazardous equipment such as tractors and skid loaders; and being kicked or stepped on by livestock. Other than close supervision, the best way to prevent young children from being hurt on the farm is to keep them out of work areas like fields and barns.

No one wants a child to suffer an injury, especially a serious one on a family farm. If you farm and have small children, a number of programs are available through the Progressive Agriculture Foundation and other groups that have been shown to help younger kids learn how to stay safe.

Source: Claims Journal, “Federal Survey Shows Risks to Young Kids on Farms,” M.L. Johnson, Dec. 23, 2013

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