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Farm safety days for Parochial Schools

The safety of children living and working on farms has always been an important part of the work that happens at the Woolwich Community Health Centre.  Together with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services and the Progressive Ag Foundation we have been organizing events on local farms for the school children attending parochial schools.

For the past number of years two or three schools in close proximity of each other have met at a host farm where we were able to conduct an afternoon set of sessions focusing on various safety issues.  The parent school board was asked to choose topics that were relevant to their community from a variety of possibilities.

The children arrive at the farm by bicycle, on foot, on a hay wagon and by horse and buggy. The parents, grandparents and other siblings are always invited to attend the event, so the crowd can be quite large!

The school children are divided into six groups, usually by grade, accompanied by a teacher or one of the parents.  The other parents and siblings, both older and younger, are free to join any group that they wish.

The sessions begin at one o’clock, each one lasting twenty minutes.  Every group starts at a different station and after the time is up, they rotate to the next.  After six, twenty-minute lessons, everyone will have completed the program.

The local fire department will offer a fire safety station where children and parents learn about the importance of working smoke detectors, knowing their physical address in case of an emergency and what a fire fighter would wear when battling a fire.  They can explore the inside of a rescue truck and check out some of the equipment.

Tractor and skid steer safety is taught by a local farm equipment dealership. “One seat, one rider”, “safety first will make you last” are some of the slogans that are explained.  Blind spots in front and behind a tractor are demonstrated and the importance of staying well back from a working piece of machinery.

At the grain safety station there is a demonstration with a toy gravity wagon to show how fast someone can become engulfed in grain.  Chemical safety displays show how difficult it is to distinguish a poisonous liquid from a drink if it isn’t stored in a properly labelled container.  Children get to don the proper PPEs needed when applying chemicals in the fields.

Lawnmower safety, rabies awareness, water safety, electrical safety, first aid, bicycle and road safety, hearing protection awareness and shop safety are a few of the other stations that we offer.  Animal safety is important because on most farms there are some type of animals present. Children learn about the blind spot around a horse or cow, the reason why an animal with young may be more protective and the size of a bull or horse compared to a small child can be quite dangerous if you get too close.

The Progressive Ag manual has many other possibilities for safety stations, but we try to be respectful of the audience that we are serving.

After the groups have visited all the stations, we gather in a semi circle around a tractor with an implement attached that is powered by a Power Take Off shaft (PTO).  There we can demonstrate how quickly a person can get wound around an exposed shaft if a piece of clothing or hair get caught in it.  A PTO rotates at a speed of  540 RMP (9 times per second) and within an instant a limb would be ripped off.  The importance of walking around instead of stepping over an operating shaft is stressed.

Afterwards the mothers supply refreshments for the children, presenters and everyone present.  This gives the parents time to speak with the presenters and visit with each other.

It is important that parents hear the same safety messages as their children.  Sometimes they will learn something new, but mostly this day serves as a reminder that safety is essential at any age.  The discussion that happens at the dinner table after a safety day is most beneficial.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic we have had to cancel safety days for this year.  Hopefully we will be able to resume our program again in the spring


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