Last year, 28 people died in farming accidents in Pennsylvania. Seven were children under 19, two right here in our region.
A new program at Penn State is looking for ways to prevent future tragedies from happening. It's called the "Safety in Agriculture for Youth" project and its goal is to educate farmers and youth about the dangers of working on a farm.
If there's one thing Central Pennsylvania has a lot of, it's farmland.
"I would say 10 percent of our students work in and around farms," State College High School Teacher, Paul Heasley, said.
Heasley is no stranger to life on the farm but says these days, things are different.
"I see youth as thinking they're indestructible," he said. "Sometimes they take on that 'it's not going to happen to me'."
He says accidents are bound to happen on a farm with all the equipment and other chemical dangers and says education is key.
"USDA wanted to take a more prominent role in promoting youth safety on the farm," project Director, Dennis Murphy, said.
A new, two-year, $600,000 federal grant is helping Penn State do that.
"Farmer have to rely upon themselves to understand the hazards and then know what to do about the hazards to avoid getting killed or killing some of their family members," Murphy said.
He says these days, kids who work on farms are being asked to do more at a younger age and says work to educate kids and their employees about the dangers is just beginning, both locally and nationally.
"We will often go out to a local farm and ask, can we do this, can we work with your employees, can we work with you," Murphy said.
Something Heasley wants to see more of.
"Take a few minutes to go through this program and hopefully offer it a their schools, or in their counties, is only going to help the industry and saves lives and limbs," Heasley said.
The project is a collaborative effort between Penn State and other universities across the nation. For more information about the project, click here.
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