Last week, a toddler riding in a tractor with his father on their farm near Cayuga, N.D., fell out an open window and died after he was hit by one of the rear tires. The tractor was an older one with no air conditioning, so the windows were open for ventilation.
According to the National Agricultural Tractor Safety Initiative, more than 100 children die every year and 26,000 are seriously injured on U.S. farms, but four out of five farm children regularly ride on tractors with family members, many family farmers consider letting children ride along a family tradition; it's how many farmers learned the ropes.
The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network, a national group of health and safety organizations, want farmers to know: it's never alright to allow children under 12 on a tractor. "While riding a tractor may be a family tradition, 'it's easier to bury a tradition than a child,'" the CASN said in a media release. The phrase has become the title of a CASN farm safety campaign.
According to Mike Hass, service manager at Jamestown Implement in Valley City, older tractors are particularly dangerous. In fact, owner's manuals for older tractors warned farmers of carrying riders, said Hass. Older tractors were rarely equipped with seat belts, though they can be added.
Buddy seat with seat belts can make the ride safer, but they are common primarily in combines made since the 1990s. Buddy seats aren't always found in tractors, though, according to Hass.
While run-overs account for about 60 deaths per year, with almost 90 percent children under 15, according to the National Agricultural Tractor Safety Initiative, there are ways to prevent them.
Since run-overs occur when someone falls off a moving tractor or starts the tractor in gear while standing on the ground, following a few guidelines can help reduce the incidence of run-overs:
1. No extra riders.
2. Keep children and others away from work areas.
3. Keep bypass shields on starters and electrical systems in good working order.
4. Start engine from operator's seat and avoid bypass starting.
5. Shut down equipment, turn off engine, remove key and wait for moving parts to stop before getting off the tractor.
6. Use ROPS and seatbelts to prevent falls or being ejected from the tractor.
7. Consider adding a safe tractor access platform to the tractor.