SAFETY ON WHEELS
BY SARAH WEIGUM
The Ag for Life Rural Safety Unit redeployed in August of 2022 at Whoop-Up Days in Lethbridge. The mobile trailer attraction allows children and their families to learn about the hazards of rural life through digital games, hands-on learning experiences and print resources.
Ag for Life is an Alberta-based non-profit that educates the public about food and farming and informs rural children about farm safety. According to CEO Luree Williamson, the trailer was created to take the organization’s work on the road to schools and community events where children can learn to negotiate hazards unique to rural life.
These community visits took a hiatus during the pandemic, but this past summer saw nearly 1,300 people enter in during Whoop-Up Days alone. “Our goal is to empower youth to understand what safety is and to stand up and ask questions if they’re feeling unclear of the instructions,” said Williamson. The Unit’s instructional material is designed for kids who live on, work on or visit farms, she added. To create the contents, Ag for Life used statistics and safety information gathered by rural communities to identify on-farm risks that can potentially cause injury or death. The interior of the yellow and black trailer is divided into specific sections that include large equipment, large animals and personal protective equipment as well as overhead and below-ground utilities.
“Depending on where we are, we can customize it with interactive stations outside the trailer,” said Williamson. “It’s nimble enough that we can add additional topics, but it’s all contained and it tells its own stories.” Such additional topics have included first-aid and safety issues that pertain to railroad crossings and water bodies—topics relevant to all rural residents.
According to Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting, published by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, between 1990 and 2012 an average of 101 deaths related to agricultural incidents occurred annually, 13 per cent of which were children. For every farm related fatality in Canada it is estimated there are between 20 and 25 serious injuries, 400 to 625 minor injuries and 8,000 to 15,625 close calls.
The majority of fatalities involve large equipment. Visitors to the Safety Unit can handle the pieces of a mock tractor to learn where hazards such as pinch points exist and burns may occur. Visitors can also find the Ag for Life tractor safety manual, which covers general safety information and safe practices specific to tractors.
While the manual is aimed at youth, Williamson said it can also be helpful for adult farm workers who are in the process of learning English or did not grow up around equipment on a farm.
The Safety Unit is on the road annually from April to October. It typically visits schools on weekdays and larger community events on weekends and during the summer. It travels anywhere within the province. With the use of funds provided by sponsors, Ag for Life does not charge for school visits, though a day charge must be paid to book the vehicle for events.
“I think the Safety Unit is the signature program of Ag for Life,” said Williamson. “It’s a wonderful vehicle that is a reminder for our youth to stay and play safe.”
For more information, visit agricultureforlife.ca/safety-unit.