Reed notes that 80 percent of youth farm injuries occur to children who are not working on the farm but “are in the vicinity.” Accidents include being run over by tractors or other equipment, and falling off tractors driven by someone else. Falls account for many injuries and drowning also takes a toll with farm ponds, creeks and livestock lagoons cited as potential hazards. An NCCRAHS fact sheet shows a promising change. “From 1998 to 2012, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries per 1,000 farms (includes youth who live on, visit and are hired to work on farms) declined by 61 percent and the rate of injuries per 1,000 household youth (those living on farms) declined by 57 percent.”

However, injuries among children under 10 are increasing. Also, the gap between males having higher injury rates than females has decreased. The leading causes of non-fatal injuries include falls, animals and vehicles.

Overall, agriculture injuries account for a much higher percentage of occupational fatalities for workers under16 years than all non-agriculture industries for that same age group, according to NCCRAHS.

Public perception, Reed says, often indicates that children who are injured or die on farms are doing work they are not old enough to perform. In some cases that might be true, but most fatalities occur to “bystanders in the workplace.”

Four-wheelers (ATVs) also result in injuries and fatalities. “They are used for work on the farm but also for recreation,” Reed says.

 

A child’s death in a farm-related accident is an unspeakable, unimaginable tragedy. “And it is preventable,” Reed says. She says “age-appropriate” may not always be a correct measure of which chores a youngster is ready to take on. “Developmentally appropriate,” she says, makes more sense. A less mature 14-year old may not be as capable of operating a machine as someone a year or two younger. Parents must make judgment calls on when a child is ready to take on more responsibility.

“Arms-reach supervision,” she says, is also a good practice and “a big step toward improving safety for youth who do not have the experience and judgment of an adult.”

Legislation to eliminate child on-farm injuries is not the answer, Reed says, and would likely not pass many legislative bodies. That was tried at a national level several years ago and was met with stiff objections. Enforcement on the nation’s 2 million farms also would prove infeasible.

For youth working on the farm, teen-age boys, 14 to 15 years old, are most likely to be injured, especially with big machinery. Girls that age are less likely to be injured.

Safety classes are still important and “kids take those messages home to their parents.”