Agriculture continues to rank as one of the most dangerous occupations in North America.
Recently in Somerset County, a child accidentally engaged the starter of a tractor. He fell off and was killed when the tractor ran over him.
"The farm is not a playground. Kids should not be playing on or around equipment," Penn State Extension safety specialist Dennis Murphy said.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally there were 238 fatal injuries in the crop production sector and 147 fatal injuries in the animal production sector just last year.
According to Penn State, there were 25 fatal incidents in Pennsylvania in 2011.
They involved either farm production work or rural living activities such as cutting down trees or recreational swimming in farm ponds. Even more, Pennsylvania is among a handful of states with the highest rates of tractor overturn fatalities in the nation.
Yvette Longenecker and Tracy McMonagle of Williamsburg know the pain the death of a child in a farming accident can cause a family.
Andrew England, 8, son of Dr. Barry and Diane England, died March 2, 1996, when the bucket from a skid loader fell on him at PennEngland Farm.
"It was devastating. You never take anything or any family member for granted after something like that happens," said Longenecker, Andrew's cousin. "You go through that and know it can happen again. No one is immune to it."
"Later, we tried to put the blame on ourselves," said McMonagle, Andrew's sister.
Most farm accidents involving kids happen to children not working or working at a young age. Two and 3 year olds have been killed by farm machinery, Murphy said.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and its members try to be very proactive about getting out the safety message to its members, spokesman Mark O'Neill said.
State Agriculture Secretary George Greig, a lifelong dairy farmer, takes a hard stance about children being around farm equipment.
"I would not allow my children to ride on any equipment, especially small children; you need to err on the side of caution. Kids can bug mom and dad, but if there is not a seat and seat belt, they should not be on them," Greig said during a recent visit to Bedford County.
Longenecker said safety is very important but you can't raise kids to be afraid.
"Kids want to be involved. You need to give them chores that should be age appropriate; they should be supervised and trained on the equipment. They need to know how the machinery works so they can understand the consequences if something goes wrong," Longenecker said.
Being over-protective is not good.
"They need to be around this [equipment] but under supervision. Kids are often dismissed as too immature to understand," Longenecker said. "When they hear about an accident, they need to understand how easily this can happen. If you turn your eyes for a second. It can happen and it is so quick."
Communication with children is important.
"You need to communicate with kids. Train them on equipment and explain to them what can happen and what they should do. Kids need to have rules and understand why they are there, where they are allowed to go on a farm," Longenecker said. "One of the best things adults can do is to live by the rules and be a role model, don't do stupid things. Kids are watching everything you do and imitate you."
Longenecker said Andrew's accident has made family members more conscious of what can happen.
"Since the accident, we are more aware of the dangers and the things that can happen on a farm. Our kids are still here running equipment and doing chores. We try to make them aware of what can happen," Longenecker said. "Growing up and working on a farm is so important in what they become as adults. They just need to be educated on how things work."
Murphy has some helpful advice for parents.
"Parents should not give work to kids that are not able to physically or mentally handle. It is hard to supervise children while you are trying to work. Tractors should have rollbars on them to protect them and they should wear a seat belt and rotating parts of machinery should be guarded properly," Murphy said. "Take your time to think about what you are doing, anticipate hazards and how to mitigate or avoid the hazards."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.