By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
HAMILTON, Ohio — Working hard to keep families safe on and off the farm is the mission of Southwest Ohio Family Farm Safety, directed by Russ Beckner and his grandson, Ryland Beckner.
Despite the popular image of fresh air and peaceful surroundings, a farm is not a hazard-free work setting. Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured, and hundreds more die in farming accidents. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation.
Russ Beckner has been involved in safety for more than 60 years, beginning when as a Boy Scout, he taught new Scouts how to use a pocket knife safely, and continuing over his career when he had safety responsibilities at Procter and Gamble. He became aware of farm safety when he retired and started farming with his son.
“I became aware of injuries locally, statewide, and nationally and thought that was not good,” Beckner said. “I learned about Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, got in touch with them, and they were a source of literature and information. My Nationwide agent, Joe Conrad, paid my annual fee and dues. It mushroomed from there until their board dissolved the organization the summer of 2016.”
Butler County Farm Bureau (BCFB) stepped in then to support the safety project. “Teaching kids and adults farm safety is one of the most important things you can support,” said Terri Niederman, BCFB president. “Safety has always been important in Butler County.”
Beckner and his grandson take literature, coloring books and the like, to grain and equipment dealers. They set up a booth at community events, talk to visitors and have demonstrations (if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a demonstration is worth 1,000 pictures, he pointed out).
At first the two tried to host safety events, but attendance was disappointing.
“I got this idea, rather than expecting families to come to me I’d go to where they are,” he said. “That’s when I started going to equipment and grain dealers, and special events. I just went where they already planned to be.
“The Butler Rural Electric Company has let us set up at their family day. Our material is geared predominantly to elementary through high school-age kids.”
In one example, Beckner asks children what to do with an empty plastic water bottle. Some say throw it away; some say recycle. From a safety standpoint, both are right, he explains. Most important is that they should be disposed of properly.
No one should drink anything out of a used water or pop bottle. People sometimes put insecticide, paint thinner and other poisonous materials in them, he points out.
Another safety issue for adults is bolt grades, Beckner said. There are different grades of bolts. “My son was bush-hogging a field for his uncle; he hit something, and the bolt sheared like it is supposed to,” he explained.
“He got a new bolt (and) dimensionally it was the same, but strength-wise it was different. The next object he hit, the bolt didn’t shear. The PTO came up between the seat and the fender.”