Farm safety: Protecting our oldest and youngest

Two riders on tractor
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

By Susan Crowell /

My husband recently wrapped up a temporary job on an industrial construction site. When he started, I had to buy a slew of safety-color T-shirts (think day-glo orange and yellow), a hoodie and then even a winter jacket. At first, I wasn’t happy about the expense, but then I realized that high-visibility clothing was pretty important on that busy site.

I thought about that clothing recently when I saw a video posted online by a family farm out west. All the employees were wearing the high-visibility clothing, AND the children running around were also wearing bright pink and similar colored coats.


A farm is as busy — and as dangerous — as a construction site, so why don’t we take more of the same safety precautions?

I’m starting to see more information about putting farm children into high-visibility clothing, but I’d say every farm member or worker should be similarly garbed. It might not be practical to buy a full replacement wardrobe, but the next time you have to buy a fleece, or a hoodie or a T-shirt for yourself or a farm family member, reach for a high vis instead.

It’s National Farm Safety and Health Week (Sept. 16-22). It’s just another week for most of us, just like the monotony of common farm chores are routine for us — tasks we rarely think about, let alone think about the safety aspects of these chores.

And yet every day, a routine farm task — one someone has possibly done “a thousand times” — turns into a farm accident because we just don’t think the unthinkable will ever happen to us.

The tragedy of farm accidents hits home

A family’s tragedy: Six-year-old’s accident affects entire family

My farm safety focus is often on children, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our elderly farming family members and friends.

Let’s face it: No one wants to be the one who tells Dad or Mom they really shouldn’t be driving that tractor, that car or maybe even that lawn mower any more. But senior farmers suffer the highest fatality risk of any age group in agriculture, and recent Kentucky research found 1 in 9 farmers 55 and older had been involved in a tractor rollover.

We need to recognize when our loved ones simply don’t have the vision, the physical ability, the strength, reflexes, the flexibility, the mental sharpness to do the same tasks they’ve always done.

Those individual risk factors are compounded when farmers in their 70s or 80s continue to work 10- or 12-hour days like they did when they were younger. That’s stressful, and takes both a mental and physical toll.

It’s hard, and many of us simply don’t want to have that conversation. We know it will break their spirits, or make them feel like they’re not needed and can’t do what they love the most. Too often, those difficult discussions have led to family discord that sometimes lasts multiple generations.

But it shouldn’t take a “close call” or actual injury to prompt those conversations. The challenge of finding ways for an older farmer to play a role on the farm — safely — is one we shouldn’t ignore.

Lawn mowers are dangerous, too

Driving on a rural road last Saturday, a little boy around 3 or 4 caught my eye on the side of the road. He was pushing a toy lawn mower right beside the road. In front of him, on a riding lawn mower, was his mother, holding another toddler in her lap.

Please, for the love of your children, keep them away from lawn mowers — keep them inside or somewhere safe while you mow.

And please don’t think it’s safe to hold a young child while you mow. Or while you’re driving an old tractor in a parade. Or on your lap or beside you on the tire fender on your farm tractor. Because it’s not.


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  1. Thank you for this, Miss Susan. In my “off farm job,” as a practicing lawyer in Akron, Ohio, I cannot tell you the many cases that limped or hobbled through my doors seeking redress for injuries received when working with farm equipment: blindness, amputations, severe contusions, lacerations, crushing injuries–the whole array of injuries.

    Even my Amish and Mennonite neighbor farmers were not exempt from severe injuries. Don’t ask me how I know about horrible injuries to them while they were logging or in sawmill operations.

    By far the saddest was a daughter who came in to probate her 80+ year old father’s estate. He had taken his good old trusty tractor (sans ROP devices–“who needs that baloney!”) to “just trim” the weeds on a slope of the farm, like he had done for 50+ years. The incline, speed, and Dad’s misjudgement and slower reflexes caused the tractor to flip over with him in the seat. Without a ROP, it was a quick, but grisly death.

    These days I see “educated” suburbanites holding babies and kids on their laps while using lawn tractors, Scag units or worse and I will stop to warm them and to tell them to “stop this immediately.” I have been told to “mind you own business,” been roundly cursed and spat at, and worse……


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