Accidents on the farm can happen in the blink of an eye, causing injuries and even death. It is with that message in mind that the Waterloo Rural Women are holding their 17th annual farm safety day today (Saturday). This year, the safety day will be held at the farm of Dennis and Helen Martin just east of Winterbourne.

“The day is designed for children that live on the farm or visit often, and realizing when they go there that there are lots of things that could be hazardous,” said Heidi Wagner, a rural community health worker at Woolwich Community Health Centre, one of the event’s sponsors.

Children aged four to 12 are invited to the event, where they will visit eight different safety stations ranging from large machine safety with Stoltz Farm Equipment of Elmira, to silo gas and manure gas safety, electrical safety, large animal safety, and fire and chemical safety.

“Some are related specifically to farms, while others are related to general safety around the home,” explained Wagner.

Every year they organize the safety day to take place at a real farm in one of the four rural townships as they have found it makes for a better learning environment than in a classroom or gymnasium setting, said Wagner.
“That’s where the actual work takes place, so we have animals, we have machinery, we have manure, we have all that kind of stuff right there,” she noted.

Numbers have waned in recent years (they’re expecting between 60 and 70 this year) which they aren’t sure is the result of busier families, or a drop in the number of farm kids in the region. The children are broken up into two groups – four to six year-olds, and seven to 12 year-olds – because the two age groups tend to have different learning styles. The younger children have more hands-on activities, while the older children have more involved and intense demonstrations as they’re actually beginning to work on the farm.

While they try not to scare the kids too much, the presentations can get quite real as they avoid sugar-coating the dangers that can be posed to them on the farm.

“We like to have a bit of shock,” said Wagner. “We’ve had one demonstrator take a frozen hot dog and stick it into a moving machine part to simulate your thumb or your finger, and just how your finger can get cut off.”

Aside from learning more about farm safety themselves, organizers hope children will take the lessons they learn home with them and correct any unsafe behaviour they might see from their parents or anyone else working on the farm.
“It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but we’re hoping that the young dogs will relay the safety messages to their parents and tell them what they learned.”

The farm safety day runs from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a pizza lunch available, and entry is just $5. Registration for the day is now closed, but for more information visit www.waterlooruralwomen.org.