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Drawing awareness for agriculture safety and health

Published: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 10:57 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 11:36 a.m. CDT
CHS freshman Cody Tanner was in a farm accident involving a tractor when he was 4 years old. National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 15-21, promotes safe practices in agriculture.

Cody Tanner, 14, is off to an active start as a freshman at Creston High School.

Following in his older brothers’ footsteps, Cody plays offense and defense for the Panther’s freshman football team.

He is also taking driver’s education classes to earn his school permit.

But, about a decade ago, while spending time with his father Roger on the family farm about seven miles northwest of Orient, an accident involving a tractor left 4-year-old Cody with more than 15 stitches in his left hand.

The accident could have just as easily been fatal.

“We knew how lucky we were that he didn’t get runover,” said Cody’s mother, Robbie Tanner.

Sept. 15-21 is National Farm Safety and Health Week. This year’s theme, “Working Together for Safety in Agriculture,” hopes to bring more awareness to all of the potential dangers on the farm and in agriculture.

The agriculture sector remains the most dangerous in America with 475 reported fatalities in 2012 according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Cody’s story

During a spring morning while Robbie was at work at Creston Elementary School, Roger and Cody were at home doing work with a tractor and loader.

“I was driving the tractor ... it didn’t have a cab on it,” Roger said. “Usually, I had him sit in between my legs, but for some reason, he was sitting on the fender, and that wasn’t the place to be.”

Roger said he was forced to stop suddenly when the material he was hauling fell off the tractor’s loader.

“I just went forward,” Cody said. “I remember that it hurt, a lot.”

Cody was thrown from the fender and his hand caught on the equipment on the way down, ripping his left hand open. Since Roger was already stopping, the tractor did not roll on top of his son.

Roger rushed Cody to the emergency room for stitches, and they were back home before Robbie returned from school.

“(Roger) was really shook, in fact, I never heard all the details of the accident right away,” Robbie said. “We just knew we were lucky.”

As former 4-H leaders and Roger spending his entire life farming, the Tanners have alway stressed farm safety with their three boys.

Roger said it is just those minor lapses in judgement or lack of attention to detail when accidents can happen to anyone.

“You’ve got to watch and think ahead about what could happen,” Roger said.

Farm safety

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) works year round to educate children, teenagers, adults and emergency responders about agriculture safety.

“We are the only hands-on training facility in the nation,” said Office Coordinator Gloria Reiter. “We do training for firemen and EMS, safety days for children (4 - to 7-year-olds) and fall harvest safety days with FFA.”

NECAS’s director, Dan Neenan, has spent the entire week traveling around Iowa giving presentations on grain bin and manure pit rescues.

The Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau covers the cost of the training, but there must be a minimum of 12 participants. Reiter said smaller departments can share training sessions with nearby stations.

Usually the fall season has the most incidents because of all the equipment involved with the harvest.

“Accidents happen most often when people get in a hurry,” Reiter said.

Besides the typical machinery accidents associated with the harvest, cattle farmers are also active getting the herd ready for winter.

“It’s all about respecting the animal,” Roger said.

After years of moving and sorting cattle, Roger said cattle have attitudes and tendencies just like people. Being able to read how a cow is moving and behaving can help prevent accidents.

The NECAS also covers cattle safety. Reiter said its website — www.necasag.org — is the best source for up-to-date program listings.

And even though Cody’s hand fully healed, the faint scar serves as a constant reminder about how quickly an accident on the farm can happen.

“We are always talking about what to do and what not to do,” Robbie said. “Constantly communicating and learning.”

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