Farm Safety Is No Accident

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1408 N. Van Buren, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

Did you know that 100 years ago a 1-year-old child had only a 50-50 chance of reaching adulthood? Scarlet fever, diphtheria and other diseases took the lives of many children. Now, a 1-year-old child has an excellent chance of growing up-if he does not have a bad accident. Accidents cause more deaths to persons between the ages of 15 and 24 than all other causes combined.

In 1968 the Iowa legislature passed a law requiring 14- and 15-year-olds who work off their parents farm doing certain hazardous jobs to have 20 hours of classroom training, plus demonstrating ability to operate a tractor with a two wheel trailed implement on a course similar to 4H Tractor Operator's Contest. These hazardous jobs include the following:

1.  Handling and applying chemicals.

2. Handling or using explosives.

3. Serving as a flagman for spray planes.

4. Operating a tractor over 20 HP.

5. Operating self-unloading wagons.

6. Operating all power-driven farm implements.

7. Working on a ladder more than 20 feet high.

8. Working inside a silo or grain bin when being filled from the top.

9. Working in a yard with a dairy bull, boar or stud horse.

Many of these things that apply to young children apply to exhibitors of antique gas engines and tractors. I taught these safety classes for six years, and our Teacher Manual had many pages of Operator Activity Precautions, Protective Device Precautions, Tractor Motion Precautions, Implement Precautions and Power Takeoff Precautions. While these courses were primarily for tractor operation, much of this material applied to gas engine operation. After completing the safety course the students were issued a certificate that was to be shown to the employer before going to work. An interesting side light in these classes were some farm wives who took the course.

Accidents happen on the farm. On a farm nearby, a man lost an arm and a leg in PTO on a portable corn elevator. Another 2-year-old boy lost a leg in an auger accident. I had both of these fellows attend my safety classes to show the effects of carelessness. It really impressed the young students. The two-year-old boy is now in his early 20's and with only one leg he water skis and has a pilot's license. The other fellow has a bookkeeping service.

One of the hazards was the danger of hydraulic oil leakage. A pin hole leak in a hydraulic line can force penetration of skin causing serious infection. If a leak is suspected, check it with a piece of paper or board. I demonstrated this by using a diesel injection nozzle tester, showing the spray from the nozzle penetrating a leather glove.

Another fellow I worked for lost parts of both hands in saw mill accidents. In two different accidents he lost all of his right hand except his thumb. In another accident he lost two fingers on his left hand.

A wood saw accident took the life of one of my neighbors when he fell on the blade.

While I did not see this accident, I saw an Allis-Chalmers baler that had killed a farmer.

Some years ago, one of our tenants was combining oats with a pull type combine. His brother was riding on the combine, and when the reel became tangled with some weeds they stopped the tractor, but did not shut off the PTO. One of the men cleaned off the reel and then reached down for some weeds on the sickle. He let out a scream, 'I cut my hand off.' When I got him, I found he had cut off two fingers. I made a tourniquet to shut off the blood. This tragedy was something I have remembered all of my life.