Safety on the Mind

FFA Convention Workshop Focuses on Farm Youth Safety

By Thursday night of the 2015 National FFA Convention, over 60,000 members, advisors and guests had descended upon Louisville, Ky. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Virginia Harris)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (DTN) -- "I'm about ready to ask OSHA to come to the shop themselves and teach us," Don Frey says, laughing.

That's the sign he's reached the end of his patience. He wants to follow the law in education and safety and teach his students the same, but how can he do that when the law is indecipherable or inaccessible. That's what brought Frey to an advisor workshop at the 2015 National FFA Convention about a new online training program specifically licensed by OSHA to teach youth and youth agriculture safety.

The workshop featured Katie George, deputy program manager with Career Safe. The company creates and distributes online safety training programs in areas such as cyber safety, construction and general safety awareness, all geared toward youth ages 16 to 24.

Career Safe is the only safety training company, however, with OSHA certification to create safety training for youth workers and for youth ag workers. This training has been specifically created to address agriculture work environments as well as youth working on farms.

The online program consists of 10 hours of safety training, with students receiving an OSHA and USDA-stamped wallet card that never expires. The modules offer interactive lessons with videos, periodic knowledge checks and tests (with a pass score of 70%) concluding each module.

Dos Palos is located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, where farmers grow row crops, vegetables, fruits, nuts and raise cattle.

"It's very diversified," he tells DTN. The school is the largest employer, but agriculture is by far the largest industry with locals consisting of farmworkers, mechanics and other ag support services. Many of Frey's students work on farms during the summer and after school.

With such a wide array of agriculture jobs comes a wide array of risks. Dos Palos has seen several deaths in the past ten years according to Frey, each one a fresh wound on the tight-knit community. He believes one death, or even injury, is too many. In Frey's ideal school shop environment, he is able to teach safety alongside skills, but that's easier said than done. Frey says he's spent innumerable hours looking through the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) website to determine industry specific guidelines so that he can impart that knowledge to his students. No dice.

The shop at Dos Palos High School in Dos Palos, California burned down just six years ago. As the school rebuilt the auto and wood shops, ag teacher Don Frey envisioned a state-of-the-art shop program that benefitted his students with cutting-edge technology. In addition, Frey wanted to do things the right way, including safety education.

Frey is skeptical of certificate programs. He had a call from an employer just a few weeks ago bemoaning an interviewee that came in with a binder full of certificates from various trainings. How could he decipher what they all meant?

However, Frey wants his students working safely and within OSHA industry guidelines. So, the Career Safe General Safety Awareness -- Agriculture program holds some promise in Frey's eyes.