Safety campaign keeps priorities straight on the farm.
Josh Meissner knows all too well how important it is to make safety a priority on farms.
The 37-year-old is a lifelong Wisconsin dairy farmer who lost part of two fingers on his right hand while working on a harvester. The injury serves as a constant reminder to him and all workers on Norm-E-Lane Farm, which has a track record for keeping workers safe.
Meissner's experience, coupled with a deep desire to protect his own children, led him to join Cultivate Safety, a public-health campaign from The National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety at Marshfield Clinic. Cultivate Safety gives parents the resources and information they need to keep children safe on farms.
"The campaign's message puts things in perspective," said Meissner, of Chili, Wis., who is featured in one of the campaign's ads. "No matter how important the farm is to our way of life, it's never worth the life of a child."
The campaign leads farmers to a new website, cultivatesafety.org, which provides one-stop shopping for tips on how to keep children safe while they work and play on farms.
The website includes easy-to-use information about child development and best-practice work guidelines. An interactive feature allows users to upload stories, videos and photos about child injuries, so farm families can learn from one another.
Farm injuries and deaths are tragic, but much can be done to prevent them, said Barbara Lee, director of the National Children's Center.
"It starts with getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so they're motivated to take action," Lee said.
The multi-pronged campaign launched first in Wisconsin with print, Internet and radio ads that emphasize farm safety and help connect people with the website. A national campaign will launch later this year.
The campaign is part of a study to determine if working with an agricultural marketing firm is effective in reaching farm parents and, ultimately, minimizing injuries and fatalities to children under 18 years of age. The project is funded by a national three-year federal grant.
More than 100 children die in farm-related incidents each year, including an average of five in Wisconsin, and nearly 16,000 children suffer serious injuries annually on U.S. farms.
"If parents and farmers regularly follow the guidelines and information developed over the years, the number of deaths will decrease significantly," Lee said. "We have to continue to foster safety if we want agriculture – such an important part of our lives – to no longer be one of the most dangerous industries in the world."
Meissner has received positive feedback on the campaign.
"Everyone seems to love it. Most say, 'parent first, farmer second, is a very cool message, and it's something I can identify with'," he said. "As farms grow, change and get busier, there comes an increased responsibility for the safety of our families and employees' families."
The Marshfield Clinic system provides patient care, research and education with more than 50 locations in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.