Rock County Health Department receives farm safety grant

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Thursday, March 27, 2014

JANESVILLE—The Wisconsin Division of Public Health recently awarded an $8,750 grant to develop a farm safety education program.

The Gazette asked officials at the Rock County Health Department what it means.

Q: Why farm safety, and why now?

A: The health department has a child death review team. Looking at child deaths helps health department decide what educational efforts might be needed in the community, said Karen Cain, Rock County health officer.

For example, when the team noticed deaths related to unsafe infant sleeping practices, the department got a grant to purchase safe cribs.

In the past several years, there have been a handful of deaths of children on farms, the review team found.

Q: Don't farm safety materials already exist in abundance?

A: Cain acknowledged that they do.

University Extension services, farm bureaus, OSHA and other governmental agencies already have developed safety material for all ages.

Guidelines for children's agricultural tasks were developed at the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety at  Marshfield Clinic.  The organization has developed guidelines for more than 50 farm tasks ranging from running an irrigation system to operating a skid steer in the barn, according to the center's website.

Cain said they will be using existing educational materials and might create new materials from them.

Q: How big of a problem is farm safety?

A: Rock County is home to 1,500 farms, according to a summary of the grant provided to the county board.

The National Children's Center notes that there is no central database on childhood ag injuries but using “the best available data” estimates that about 1,450 children are injured every year while working on farms.

The estimates of the number of children who suffer fatal injuries while working on farms vary widely.

Q: How will the grant money be used?

A: A health educator will develop traveling displays for locations such as public libraries; write health columns for Rock County 4-H newsletters, farm bureau newsletters and public service announcement for radio stations; do presentations for school children and develop activity books for children, according to the summary provided to the county board. A health educator who works 80 percent time will work full time until the grant money runs out. Then he or she will return to 80 percent time.

UW Extension will be a partner in the grant, said Donna Duerst, 4-H Youth Development Agent with UW Extension.

Extension's role will include helping distribute the materials, Duerst said.

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