Farmer sowing seeds of safety

August 17, 1998

Teaching farm safetyBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer [enlarge]

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - When a tractor rolls over, pinning a farmer beneath it, actions taken in the next few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.

Titus Martin, 49, a dairy farmer from Fayetteville, Pa., and chairman of the Franklin County Farm Bureau Safety Committee, is working to ensure that more people know the right steps to take when a farm accident occurs.

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He's doing that through the First-on-the-Scene program, which he learned about in 1994. He took a 12-hour instructor's course to teach the program.


Martin travels around Franklin and Adams counties to farm groups, 4-H clubs, fairs and festivals. His biggest class so far, held this spring, was 45 members of the Franklin County Farm Women.

Martin uses overhead projectors to take students through several accident scenarios, including tractor rollovers, machinery entanglements, electrocutions and falls into silos and manure pits.

Students learn how to react to each situation, whether that means staying at the scene to help the victim or calling 911.

"It's always the first few minutes that make the difference," Martin said. "The life of the victim often rests with the first person on the scene. Knowing what decisions to make also helps to curb initial panic and remove some of the guilt after the incident is over."

Fatalities can occur when a worker becomes entangled in farm machinery, while using chemicals and pesticides, and as a result of problems with farm animals. Silos and grain storage bins can be deadly, as can hydrogen sulfide gas in underground manure pits.

Statistics show that 44 people died in farm accidents across Pennsylvania in 1996. Of those, 24 died as a result of tractor rollovers.

FARMEDIC Inc., a national program, was designed to train emergency rescue crews to deal with farm-related accidents.

Davis E. Hill, executive director of FARMEDIC Inc., at Alfred State College in Alfred, N.Y., had a hand in developing the program in the early 1980s. A decade later, Hill teamed up with Professor Dennis J. Murphy at Penn State University to prepare First-on-the-Scene, a program that teaches families how to deal with farm accidents.

"We wanted to develop a standardized teaching curriculum," Hill said. One benefit of the course is that farmers who take it come away with a renewed awareness of safety, he said.

"They realize how fragile life is and how quickly someone can die, that they've been taking so much for granted," he said.

Martin also helps teach the FARMEDIC program to area firefighters and rescue squads. He uses dummies, tractors and farm machinery to create realistic accident situations.

Ken North, chief of training for the 18-member Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association, praised the FARMEDIC program, saying it teaches rescue personnel how farms operate. The biggest problem in teaching the program is finding tractors and equipment to use as props, North said.

"We really rip it apart and tear it up," he said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the First-on-the-Scene program may call Martin at 1-717-352-8676.

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