Lesson improves rural students' knowledge of farm safety

Tampa, FL (Nov. 26, 2002) -- Fifth-graders in rural Hillsborough County, FL schools who completed a lesson in farm safety significantly improved their knowledge of agricultural hazards, a study led by the University of South Florida College of Public Health found.

"This is an important first step," said Karen Liller, PhD, an associate professor of public health at USF and lead author of the study. "Our ultimate goal is to evaluate whether integrating farm safety into the health education curriculum translates into fewer injuries and deaths among children who live and work on farms."

The study was among the first to address migrant farm safety issues among elementary school children. The lesson covered safety around machines, animals and water; diseases and hygiene issues, sun exposure and weather conditions, pesticides, appropriate picking and lifting techniques, and protective gear. Particular emphasis was given to unique farming conditions in Florida, including migrant farm labor.

The findings are published this month in the quarterly Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health.

Agriculture can be especially dangerous for children. A previous study by Dr. Liller found that the leading causes of fatal injuries for children on Florida farms were machinery related, including falls from tractors; horses (being trampled, struck or entangled in ropes); and drownings.

Working with the MORE HEALTH community health education program of Tampa General Hospital, Dr. Liller and colleagues developed, implemented and evaluated a farm safety program for fifth-graders, in 15 Hillsborough County elementary schools, including the schools with large numbers of migrant and Hispanic children. Nearly, 2000 children, ages 9 to 11, participated in the lesson taught by MORE HEALTH instructors.

The lesson incorporated nationally recognized standards for farm safety, including the North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks.

Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
University of South Florida Health

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