Recently, Creston Valley 4-H Club members were invited to attend a regional 4-H safety day at Wycliffe Exhibition Grounds. The event was hosted by the Wasa and District 4-H Club, and was facilitated by the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA).
First of all, it was a sobering fact for members to realize that there are more deaths and loss of limb accidents in agriculture than in firefighting, policing or any other line of work. The major causes of the accidents stem from the use of large machinery and the handling of large animals.
The day began with an interactive PowerPoint presentation on the handling and moving of cattle, whether from the range or in and around the farm. Members were encouraged to throw away their watches when it came to moving their animals, and take note of the fact that slow and quiet would get them a lot further than whooping and hollering, or attempting to outmuscle or outwit. If problems arose, it was recommended to try and see what the animals might be seeing or listen to what they might hear — as they were more likely to balk out of fear than out of stubbornness. Confined spaces, of course, are an added danger when large animals are involved, as are gates and corners. Another helpful tip was to have an exit strategy in mind before you found yourself in a precarious spot.
After the cattle presentation, there was a speak-and-show on the safe use of power tools and small machines — everything from weed whackers and lawnmowers to drills, saws and staple guns. Basic safety precautions, such as earplugs and work gloves, were recommended, as well as proper eye protection and proper use of the tools themselves. Checking that machines were in good repair was a safety tip. Not keeping both hands on tools was cited as a major cause of accidents. Another tip — this one to prolong the life of summer machines — is to make sure that all the gas is emptied out before winter sets in. Otherwise the cold weather causes the gas to congeal and prohibits the proper use of the carburetor.
The day continued with a safety talk about ambulance and paramedic services. It came as something of a surprise for us to realize that the Kootenay ambulance dispatch service is actually out of Kamloops. Therefore, it is extremely important that homes are properly numbered and that street addresses are carefully given to the 911 operators as they have no firsthand knowledge of our area. A tip during this presentation was to make sure all family dogs were tied up to allow easy access of emergency vehicles in an emergency situation, and for all non-injured individuals to remain as calm and collected as possible. Foolhardiness in an attempt to rescue the injured was discouraged, as it more often than not just leads to multiple injured persons.
Next up was a fire and rescue demonstration, which was just the kind of hands on learning that 4-H members love. Everyone had an opportunity to operate the fire extinguisher — Pull out the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle and use a Sweeping motion to put out the fire (PASS). A reminder was given to all, though, that fire extinguishers are only intended to put out very small fires, and that for anything else, call the fire department (911).
It was back for another animal presentation, this time on horses. Again, slow and quiet was the safety tip of the day, given just how dangerous it can be if you become frustrated or angry when dealing with these animals. Their flight mechanism will kick in if they become frightened or anxious, and they can hurt us so easily without ever meaning to. Handler error is the number one cause of horse-related accidents.
The next safety session was actually geared as much towards 4-H parents as members. It was on Internet safety and touched on such things as cyberbullying and disclosing too much personal information over Internet sites. Since many parents seem to be a little bit behind their offspring in terms of computer savvy, it was recommended that they be aware of the sites that their children were visiting, limit the amount of time spent on the computer and be as much involved in their kids’ lives online as they are involved in their kids’ lives in 4-H (which is a great deal, as all 4-H parents will know).
The last session of the day was on bike safety. Again, basic principles were reviewed — helmets, obeying traffic signs, bicycles being in good repair, wearing suitable shoes and clothes when riding, making sure you can be seen and making sure that you are paying more attention to the road than you are to the music on your iPod.
While the day was certainly packed full of information and captured FARSHA’s motto — “Safety through knowledge” — it was also broken up into some lighter sessions. 4-H members split up into teams and competed in an egg drop, for example, and in a relay game with a safety theme. There was also a demonstration with two working border collie dogs and their trainer. They moved and separated sheep in a herd. It was simply wonderful to see. And in between all that, there was an endless supply of snacks and delicious homemade food.
It was a great day at Wycliffe, and a great opportunity for 4-H members to review safety on the farm and with their animals. I know that I will make a conscious effort to put on my helmet for every ride, to secure the roll bar on the tractor when I got out to harrow the arena and to take my time when I am handling my Jerseys and my horses. For when if comes to safety, it is best not to compromise!
—BY ALEXANDRA HAYES