Ag Progress Days’ safety exhibition focused on two benign-appearing areas: the hay loft and the front of a little skid-steer loader. Penn State offered farm families demonstrations on hay mow and equipment safety at Ag Progress Days.
“The most distressing type of injury is a child versus a machine,” stated Michael Pate, Penn State professor of ag safety and health.
There are a lot of places around a farm where a person can get into trouble: manure pits, by the PTO shaft, corn choppers, mowers, guns. However, this year, it was emergency room doctors from prestigious hospitals like the University of Pennsylvania, Lancaster General and Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center who noticed a depressing number of injuries to children from the area around the hay mow.
Hay mow safety
Although everyone on a farm knows about the openings in the hay mow allowing bales to be tossed down to the animals below, those openings are the cause of many child-involved accidents. Although no fatalities were reported in the past year, Pate said a depressing number of traumatic head injuries have been seen by the emergency room doctors.
The Amish Safety Committee designed a solution.
Keep in mind that a child hold a greater percentage of his or her weight in her head. What typically happens when a child slips, or even jumps, through a hay mow opening is they flip over as they fall and land on their heads. Even a fall of 10 feet can cause head trauma.
So, the Amish Safety Committee came up with a light-weight webbed cover mounted at the hay door that catches the child promptly. The webbed cover allows ventilation in the warm months but can be equipped with a cover for winter.
They are made of basic webbing and aluminum tubing. They take only a couple of minutes to install. Because they are so light, they take only a second for someone to raise before pitching down hay or to lower when the job is done.
Best of all, they are free to Pennsylvania farmers upon request. Contact a county extension office for details.
Loader blind spots
Although today’s loaders feature open designs, “Over one-half the area around the operator is a blind spot,” Pate said. Ag engineer Steve Brown ran a loader at low speed while Linda Fetzer and Doug Schaufler approached it from the front. One would think they would be safe. Not so.
Even at the front of the machine, there is a blind spot where a full-grown adult cannot be seen. What chance does a child have? Worse is when a small child gets behind a loader to talk to daddy and ends up being run over.
“When you are operating equipment, the best place for a child is in the house or in a fenced-in yard,” Pate said.
To give the grown-up a better chance of avoiding heartbreak, add a backup or rear-view camera to such equipment. Also worth the investment are magnetic mirrors which can be attached to the sides of a loader. Even if there are no children around, they are worth having for the improved visibility they afford.