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Preventing accidents: Volunteers stress farm safety at day camp

MALTA – Trent Sanderson hopes the image of a fake body being spun and trapped in the power take-off (PTO) shaft of a tractor stays in the minds of farm kids for a long time. 

Sanderson of Clare has anecdotes of friends and family members who were affected by farm accidents, specifically PTO entanglement, in which clothing, hair or body parts are ensnared in the spinning, exposed shaft, which pushes energy from the tractor to any attached pieces of equipment.

Sanderson's aunt had hair ripped from her head after being near farm equipment, and today she wears a wig. A friend lost an arm.

"You don't realize how fast something can happen," Sanderson said. "There's zero time to react to danger." 

Sanderson was one of the volunteers at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau's Farm Safety Camp on Friday at Jonamac Orchard, 19412 Shabbona Road. The Farm Bureau has held the camp every other year for 20 years, and Sanderson first attended as a child. Now, he uses his experiences to show children farms can be fun but dangerous. Many camp volunteers are part of the Farm Bureau or have family affiliated with the organization.

Sanderson used a plastic "body" stuffed with newspaper to illustrate how standing close to a tractor could result in a lost limb. When he started the tractor, the fake body's arm was tied up in the PTO shaft.

About 955,000 youth under 20 years old lived on farms in 2012, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Division of Safety Research.

The study reported that in 2012, 374 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, and one of the leading sources of fatal injuries to young people involve machinery, such as a tractor, or motor vehicles like ATVs.

Many of the children who attended the day camp either live on a farm or regularly visit a grandparent's farm. With the start of summer season for farmers and more children outdoors on family farms, participants learned about the many dangers farms can provide. The camp educated them about livestock, semis, grain bins, farming equipment and more.

"We can't emphasize farm safety enough," said Mariam Wassmann, director of information for the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. "If we can prevent one accident from occurring, then we've accomplished something."

A grain bin presentation by Monsanto showed children the dangers of being near and possibly falling into a grain bin. 

Volunteer Karl Faivre, who attended the camp as a child, said the grain bin presentation still sticks with him today. A small doll was dropped into a toy model of a grain bin, and children counted the seconds as the doll fell to the bottom of the grain bin, which would cause suffocation. Volunteers explained how difficult it is to retrieve someone under so much weight.

"Think about how fast that actually happens in real life," volunteer Angie Dickman said to the children.

Kameron Schroeder, 10, of Sycamore said he visits his grandparents on their farm, and he has some tips for them after the camp.

"I learned about fires," Schroeder said after a presentation by the DeKalb & Malta Fire Departments. "I learned to not be afraid of the fire department. I also learned about bike safety and got a whistle. I also have to wear gear if I ride an ATV."

Joe Bail, general manager of Bob-Jo Cycle Company in Sycamore, races motorcycles. He said last weekend he was in an accident and fell 30 feet off a cliff.

"If I hadn't been wearing my helmet, I wouldn't be here talking to you today," Bail said.

He showed children how to position themselves properly on an ATV, and told them what kind of clothing they should wear while riding.

Brooklyn Botterman, 11, of Genoa, lives on a farm and said that although her family doesn't have horses, she takes horseback riding lessons. The session on animals taught her more about how to safely approach horses so no one would get hurt.

"This helps you learn about animals," said Abbi Vicich, 12, of Sandwich. "I don't live on a farm, but it's important."

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