Agriculture is a "very dangerous industry," Gary Long said.
Long, the Blair County Farm Bureau president, and other officials are reminding those who work in or around agriculture to step back and remember to always think before doing when it comes to the day-to-day tasks in the business.
Ag Safety Awareness Week runs through Saturday and is a good time to remember some basic advice, said Joe Diamond, regional organizational director with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
The weeklong event is part of the American Farm Bureau's Agricultural Safety Awareness Program, with a theme of "Growing the Most Important Crop" and emphasizing the need for farm families and their employees to stay safe.
"It's an ongoing effort to try to make sure that people stay safe," Diamond said. "It teaches those good safety measures up front that will last a lifetime."
As farming technology evolves and improves, the dangers that come with it grow like the crops in area fields.
Technology is moving from belt systems to more self-propelled units which keep fewer moving parts out in the open and in the reach of people, Long said. The newer equipment also has automatic shut-off capabilities when the driver's weight is no longer on the seat.
However, a lot of the trouble comes from curious bystanders wanting to see the equipment up close, Long said.
"People want to see it, and they get too close," he said. "We still have the farm accidents. They're always here, and they always will be."
There is new equipment on farms now, like skid loaders found on just about every farming property in the area anymore, Diamond said.
"Ten years ago, that wasn't the case," he said. "Farmers use them for pretty much everything - feeding cattle, cleaning up manure. Nearly every project on the farm, now somebody's using a skid loader for it."
With more on-site grain storage comes more potential for entrapment, especially for children.
"It all goes back to entering places you shouldn't be," Long said.
Pennsylvania has seen an increase in tractor rollovers, but it's not just the large tractors plowing a field, Long said.
"It happens even with garden tractors," he said.
"People don't realize how steep of a grade they're on sometimes. People are in too deep before they realize they're in trouble with a lot of this equipment because they don't know how to handle it."
Unfortunately, accidents are sometimes the eye-opening event needed to raise awareness, Long said.
"If there's an accident in the community, it does make farmers sit back and take that moment of thought and go, 'That could have been me,'" he said. "I'm sure that every farmer is definitely taking further steps to ensure their safety."
The ASAP event takes place as spring - and the beginning of a farmer's busiest time - lands on our doorstep, Cyndie Sirekis of the American Farm Bureau said.
Young people are especially at risk with more than half of them living on farms and ranches helping with agricultural chores and another 307,000 not living on farms being employed at those places, Sirekis said.
About 100 children die in farm accidents each year, the American Farm Bureau Federation states.
Tom Ritchey, teacher and FFA adviser at Central High School, does safety training with his students on everything from first aid and CPR certification to safe tractor driving.
"Some of these kids maybe aren't going to end up on a farm," he said.
"Some are doing landscaping, some construction. It's all ag-related. The same risks apply. Ag safety is important everywhere."
Among the many topics found on a checklist for farmers at the Ag Safety Now website are farm machinery issues such as guards and shields being in place and equipped with fire extinguishers, locking up and safely storing any chemicals and hazardous materials and keeping areas clear of debris and spills.
For more information on Agricultural Safety Awareness Week or ag safety practices, visit www.agsafetynow.com.
Mirror Staff Writer Wendy Zook is at 946-7520.