UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In the United States, more than 2 million youth work in agricultural production, which is among the country's most hazardous industries. Reducing the risk of injury or death for young people on farms is the goal of a new project aimed at developing a coordinated national approach to youth farm safety education.
Led by safety experts in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, the Safety in Agriculture for Youth project will serve as an umbrella for curricula, programs, activities and expertise across the country, with an eye toward increasing safety and health knowledge and reducing hazard and risk exposure to youth on farms and ranches.
The two-year project is supported by a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
"Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the nation, and as such, thousands of youth are injured and hundreds are killed every year by hazards found on the farm," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Ann Bartuska, who announced the grant at the recent 2013 North American Agricultural Safety Summit in Minneapolis.
"As youth play a vital role in the productivity of American agriculture, USDA has a responsibility to the education and resources needed to train youth in safe farming practices," she said.
The long-term vision is to develop a sustainable and accessible national clearinghouse for agricultural safety and health curricula for youth, according to project leader Dennis Murphy, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health at Penn State.
He explained that the project is designed to connect and enhance existing educational resources, create a centralized location for relevant training and safety materials, and raise awareness, access and utilization of farm safety materials by youth.
"This national collection of resources must be sensitive to all types and scales of production agriculture and to all ages and experience levels of target audiences," Murphy said. "It also must include parents and other educators, must be culturally appropriate, and must be useable in both formal [school] and nonformal [home and ag industry] educational settings."
He noted that a national steering committee will provide oversight and direction and will engage partners such as the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, FFA, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, the Ag Safety and Health Council of America, and the National Council for Agricultural Education.