Goshen News, Goshen, IN

June 7, 2013

Photo spurs discussion about farm safety


— If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we at The Goshen News have nearly received our quota.

In what was supposed to be a simple picture depicting the rural lifestyle in late spring, News photographer Sam Householder snapped a picture of three young people on a tractor mowing hay along Ind. 119. The picture was published in Thursday morning’s edition. By midmorning we had received several calls from local farmers and ag officials pointing out what the young men were doing was very dangerous. We thank them for sharing their wisdom and we want those callers to know we agree with them.

Two of the young men in the photo are riding unrestrained on the fender and rear of a tractor, just a few feet in front of a mower. In such a situation, if the tractor were to jostle, bump, whack a rock or the boys were to slip, injury would be the result.

Our callers were right to point out that no one should ride on a tractor unless they are in the driver’s seat and are holding on to the steering wheel. Any other riders are in danger of being injured.

While each local farm family has its own way of doing things, we suggest that all rural families keep these statistics in mind. According to Purdue University’s Agriculture Safety and Health Program Elkhart and LaGrange counties historically lead the state in farm fatalities. As of 2011, each county had 26 fatalities each since 1980.

The good news is that, according to Purdue statistics, fatal farm accidents have been declining slowly since 1981. And during the last year of collected data, 2011, Elkhart and LaGrange counties had no recorded farm fatalities. Perhaps that is due to the combination of better, safer equipment being used in farm fields and the continual effort of farm agencies to preach agriculture safety. Whatever the reasons, we are thankful.

Now that our feature photograph has local farmers talking and thinking about safety once more, we suggest each rural family that uses power equipment, horses and manual labor, review their safety standards. Routine is the biggest risk in farm safety, as young people and parents become lulled into a sense of security when a farming technique has been used for years without a problem. Risky behavior is sometimes not noticed when it is close at hand and we urge our rural families to talk to their neighbors and friends to see if they have noticed something occurring they think is dangerous.

And, we would like to thank those who called the safety issue to our attention after seeing the photo. We hope they continue to spread the word to local farmers to always think safety. We know we will do the same.