Farms can be very picturesque places, with pastures, barns, livestock and fields of crops. But farms can be very dangerous places too.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call agriculture one of the most hazardous industries in America, and Lancaster County has the greatest number of farms in Pennsylvania. Family members often share in the work, as well as the risks and dangers associated with farming. Awareness of hazards is critical to minimizing these risks and reducing accidents.
LG Health’s JoAnn Miller and Ron Baier demonstrate use of hay hole covers at Farm and Family Safety Days.
In years past, physicians at Lancaster General Health noticed many people, primarily from the Amish community, coming into the Emergency Department with head trauma and other injuries after falling through a hay hole. Hay holes, generally located on the second story of a barn, are used to drop feed to animals below. LG Health teamed up with the Penn State Agricultural Extension, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the Pennsylvania Amish Safety Committee to design, create and manufacture hay hole covers to help prevent falls and injuries.
The team has distributed about 140 covers in the last year. While head trauma cases from hay hole falls have not disappeared, the Emergency Department at Lancaster General Hospital sees significantly fewer cases directly related to falls through hay holes. In the five years leading up to 2014, LGH treated at least 39 cases of head trauma caused by hay-hole accidents. There were only five cases in 2015.
The hay hole cover project, originally funded through a combination of state and federal grants, continues to receive kudos for reducing accidents and deaths.
"When we are talking to farm families, it is all about safety and prevention,” said Sue Lackmann, LG Health Educator. “We like to say we want to put our Trauma Department out of business because these accidents are often so preventable.”
To help prevent and lessen the number of injuries, Safe Kids Lancaster County annually hosts two Farm and Family Safety Day Events that are free to the public. Families rotate through educational stations staffed by community volunteers, including Lancaster General Trauma Service, Penn State Children’s Hospital, Penn State Ag Extension, Binkley and Hurst, 911 Call Center, local fire companies and the Pilot Club of Central PA.
Safety topics may include fire safety, 911 education, animal safety, large and small equipment/machine safety, lightning safety, road safety, hidden hazards (including hay holes), what to expect if you are transported to the hospital and what steps to take if there is an injury or accident. June’s Farm and Family Safety Day Events attracted more than 200 attendees.