Farm safety is a ubiquitous topic these days. But how much good has all the talk and awareness done?
According to a study to be published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine, next month, the short answer is: Not much.
According to 30 years of data collected by the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting System, mean annual rates of fatal farm accidents in children haven’t changed. About four children in 100,000 die in a farm accident every year and that number has held steady since 1990.
Gains have been made but also lost. The mean fatality rate for children aged one to four fell from 10.7 to 6.3 in every 100,000. But for children aged five to nine, the fatality rate increased from 3.3 to 6.9 in every 100,000.
Most fatalities involved machinery in either a passenger runover, rollover, or rollover of a bystander.
“Our study findings,” wrote the researchers, “call into question the effectiveness of pediatric farm safety initiatives that primarily focus on education, as opposed to engineered or regulatory strategies with known effectiveness.” As the paper pointed out, farms are largely exempted from “safety legislation that protects children in other industrial sectors.”
Much of this has to do with what the report calls the “cultural imperatives that keep children at risk.” Farm children often get involved in work at a young age for a variety of reasons: because an extra set of hands is needed or to learn skills and develop a work ethic or because farming isn’t a job but a “way of life.”
“The most efficient method to reduce the burden of child farm death in Canada is to eliminate exposures to the main hazards,” the researchers concluded.