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In farm emergencies, cool heads prevail -- and live

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Written Friday, September 17, 2004  

Farm injuries happen. That's why it's important to know how to react when they occur, said Gail Deboy, a Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service ag safety specialist.

"We estimate that there are about 6,400 medically treated farm-related injuries every year in Indiana," Deboy said. "That's a tremendous number."

At harvesttime farmers are working with potentially dangerous equipment like augers, gravity wagons and combines. And sometimes farmers are forced into the role of rescuer.

In the event of an injury, Deboy said, "Stop for a second and assess the situation. Evaluate any dangers to the victim and to yourself. Many times we see farm family members jump into a dangerous situation when a family member is injured, and then they end up getting injured or killed as well. Certainly you're no help as a rescuer if you end up being the victim."

There are several dangers rescuers should watch for when approaching an accident. Be aware of fire, places where you can become entrapped or entangled, and overhead power lines.

"We see electrocutions when the auger hits that overhead power line," Deboy said. "You may not want to run up to a victim that's laying unconscious and start shaking him, because if he's in contact with the auger and the auger's in contact with the power line, you will be electrocuted as well."

Deboy said after assessing the situation, rescuers should take steps to prevent further injury.

"Much of the new machinery is just like a car where you turn the key off and it'll shut off the tractor and any moving equipment," he said. Some of the older equipment has a fuel shut off on the dash that is often a lever or knob.

"The next thing to do after you get that equipment shut off is to determine if the person is in cardiac arrest or has extensive bleeding," Deboy said. "If they do and you have any training at all to stop the bleeding or to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, that would be the first thing to do even before running to the house to call for emergency medical services.

"You're often in a remote location where the ambulance is not going to get there very quickly. You might be able to save a life with a little bit of training in first aid and CPR."

It's for just this situation that Deboy says all farm workers should have basic first aid and CPR training, and one of the most powerful safety measures farmers can take is to carry a cell phone or two-way radio.

There also are preventative measures farmers can take to reduce the chances of being injured, he said.

"One of the main things, especially on grain handling equipment, is to keep all shields and guards in place," he said. Things like rotating shafts, moving chains, gears, pulleys and belts can entangle arms and legs.

"Another incident we see taking a couple of lives every year is grain entrapment," Deboy said. "We see a lot of children suffocated in this type of accident -- most of those in gravity wagons because they were playing or pushing grain down. A child should never be put in that situation, because we see way too many of them getting entrapped."

Purdue and other universities contributed to a publication that gives farm workers guidelines on reacting to farm accidents. "First on the Scene," NRAES-12, is available from the MidWest Plan Service at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. To order the publication, visit their Web site at http://www.mwpshq.org/ or call (800) 562-3618. Additional information is in "Farm Accident Rescue," NRAES-10, which also is available from the service.

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