By Paul Bootsma, Field Services Manager, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
Catie Bott, 13, and her sisters, 11-year-old twins Dara and Jana of Withrow, Alberta, were playing on a truck loaded with canola on October 13 when they were buried by the seed. Authorities say the girls were playing on the truck, but haven’t said how they believe they became trapped. Adults were able to pull them free, but they couldn’t be saved. Two of the girls died at the scene, while a third died the next day in hospital.
The Canadian farming community was saddened earlier this month when three sisters died while doing what seems so normal on a farm. Our sympathy and condolences go to the family and friends involved in this tragedy. May the fellowship of the saints be of great comfort to them.
This devastating event reminds us all again of the importance of safety on the farm and of the need for safety education and information for all those living and working there. Farm safety has been a topic at the CFFO for some time now. With the increasing size and speed of equipment on the roads, safety becomes very important. Even with the advancement of technology included with the equipment, understanding how it operates and functions remains vital. On the farm, caution must be used for everyone involved, including owners, managers, employees and family members.
As an industry it is time that we take a serious look into how the equipment travels on rural roads. Many of these roads are decades old, constructed before modern large farm equipment. Today we have equipment that is more than 10ft in width and at times as long as, or longer than a tractor trailer unit. They travel at faster speeds than only a few years ago. The CFFO would rather proactively establish some practical guidelines or user standards before we are faced with a significant tragedy involving farm equipment and innocent people.
Even on the farm itself, there needs to be some simple rules for handling equipment. Often when things are left alone for a period of time, unexpected situations turn up that result in tragedies. Education and awareness is a must when it comes to children and equipment. Even when it is not in use it can still be dangerous.
The farm safety council is now part of “Workplace Safety & Prevention Services”, a non-profit organization that is bringing awareness to rural areas and reminding farmers or those who use large equipment that there are safety concerns with their equipment. Farmers will do well to take time to read this information.
We all value the life of our families, friends and neighbours. We do not want to see anyone endangered in any way. All of us are responsible to remind each other of proper management and how to avoid dangerous situations. Working together as an industry will demonstrate to the general public that we care. Instruction at home on the farm with family and employees is the beginning; from there it will move beyond the farm gate. Let’s be serious about farm safety and prevent tragedies that take away lives of any age.