In July 1996, my father was killed in a fatal farm accident. All of the contributing factors could have been avoided and it took me years to understand how and why my daddy could have made a mistake.
A typically mundane activity turned terribly wrong and threw my family into turmoil for years. One minute my dad was a vibrant 48 year old - then he was gone. My mother was working on the farm that day. When the accident happened she was near. She did CPR on him until the paramedics made her stop.
I was 25 years old, my mother was 46, and my two sisters were 23 and 17. My parents were about to celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary and their grandson’s first birthday. My mom was working as a janitor and bus driver for the elementary school to provide health insurance for the family while my dad started farming with my mother’s family.
When I look back on this traumatic event I believe that financial stress, exhaustion, and emotions created a rushed and complacent scenario. Think about that! What farmer, rancher or grower hasn’t had a day (week or month) of distraction due to worrying about loan payments, sleepless night because of a labor issue, and/or a family disagreement over which generation should make a production practice decision?
How many of you or a family member has kicked a hay bailer while the PTO was operating, put a foot under the tongue of a hitch, or dismounted the tractor while it was in gear? How often have you seen someone climb into a grain bin or stood near a running auger? Have you handled livestock alone after midnight in pitch black dark? What about cutting an electrical line assuming that the breaker or power was off? That was my dad’s final mistake. He wasn’t naïve or uneducated on the work effort. He had tremendous respect for electricity and a fear of being shocked or worse- electrocuted. However, that is exactly what happened. Farm worker hazards exist everywhere and often an accident occurs because of human error.
To farmers and FarmHers I ask, when you are working on your farm are you doing something that you would NOT advise your child to do? Slow down, stop, and think about what you are about to do. Does it have the potential to devastate your family forever?
Think Triple A’s.
Assess the hazards on your farm.
Address the hazard as you can.
Advise your employees and family of risks.
Trust a farmer’s daughter when I say your life is more precious than completing the job of the day!
May God bless you and your family.