The Kansas farm can be a dangerous place for children

Children living in rural areas are at greater risk of unintentional injury-related death than children living in urban areas.

Each year in the United States, about 70 children age 14 and under die from injuries occurring on a farm. In 2001, an estimated 22,648 youth under age 20 were injured on a farm.

In Kansas, approximately 155,000 children, or 28 percent, live in rural areas. During National Farm Safety & Health Week, Sept. 21-27, Safe Kids Kansas encourages parents to focus on injury prevention.

Nearly two-thirds of all injuries occurring on a farm happen when the child is not actively working. The environment on a farm allows a child to be exposed to hazards such as heavy tractors, harmful chemicals, complex machinery, pesticides and large animals.

?Kids need to be supervised while doing farm work, and kids should not try to do the work of an adult,? said Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator.

?It takes physical strength and development, as well as mature judgment, to operate mechanical farm equipment safely.?

Machinery, motor vehicles and drowning account for more than half of all farm-related child fatalities. Safe Kids Kansas recommends that children under 16 never drive or ride ATVs, snowmobiles or tractors, and nobody should ride as a passenger on a tractor, mower or minibike.

Children should also be supervised near irrigation ditches, ponds and other bodies of water, no matter how shallow.

?A small child can drown in just an inch of water,? Stegelman said. ?Drowning happens quickly and silently, not like in the movies. A drowning child cannot cry or call for help.?

The drowning death rate for all age groups is three times as high in rural areas as in urban areas.

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of children ages 4 to 16 and the No. 1 cause of fatal accidental injury in children 14 and under. Almost half of all fatal crashes occur in rural areas.

?Never, ever let a child ride in the bed of a pickup truck,? Stegelman said. ?In a crash, the child would almost certainly be ejected and killed or suffer a permanent, life-changing injury.?

It is against Kansas law to carry passengers in a truck bed.

Safe Kids Kansas also recommends these precautions:

n Make safe play areas on the farm, physically separated from animals, farm equipment and bodies of water.

n Make sure children wear personal flotation devices while on or near water.

n Ensure that space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are vented properly and inspected annually.

n Install smoke alarms in every sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test alarms once a month and change the batteries twice a year.

n Homes with fuel-burning heat sources should also be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors?a buildup of this odorless, invisible gas can be deadly. Install CO detectors in every sleeping area and on all levels of your home. Check the batteries every month.

n Kids should always wear equestrian helmets that meet safety standards when riding a horse or pony. Don?t let kids ride without supervision, and select horses with child-friendly temperament.

n If it is necessary to walk along rural roads not marked for pedestrians, teach kids to walk on the shoulder of the road facing oncoming traffic (the left side) and to walk in a single file line wearing retroreflective decals.

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