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Agriculture Safety Day supports WorkSafeNB’s youth strategy

agrisafe2More than 450 elementary schoolchildren attended last month's Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in Saint-Jacques.

Safety Days are known all over North America for their ability to reach out to children and youth, by teaching them the importance of farm safety.

While the events are always popular, farming is becoming less so. According to the most recent statistics, in 2011 there were 2,611 farms in New Brunswick – down from 2,776 recorded in 2006. It’s a pattern seen coast to coast.

"As such, the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day stays true to its name and is constantly evolving to keep up with the needs of today’s communities," said Nicole McLaughlin, the WorkSafeNB education consultant who co-ordinated the event.

“We recognize that not everyone lives on a farm, but we will probably always have a station on tractor safety and when possible, harvester safety, because youth farm accidents is what got us started doing these activities in the first place,” she said, noting that emerging issues involving technology are also growing in popularity.

“Internet safety comes to mind as it’s important for all kids these days and it seems to be everywhere. Even something as simple as healthy lifestyles and explaining to kids the importance of eating well and staying active has become an integral part of the day.”

McLaughlin said while the action-packed day tends to fly by – there were more than 20 safety demonstrations and 500 people on site – planning the event so it goes off without a hitch is a long process.

“We’ve been planning this event since November. On the planning committee, I involved two important stakeholders, Public Health and the Francophone North West School District. They help me make decisions about dates, venues, busing of students, safety topics and, because they were involved in the planning, they wanted to make sure it was a success too.”

Already in its seventh year, the Safety Day volunteers have become adept at making it a seamless event. One moment students are learning about lawnmower safety, the next they are eating locally delivered pizza for lunch. To the students’ delight, Stella the Safety Skunk, WorkSafeNB’s youth mascot, always makes an appearance.

And while the kids are busy having fun, Jessica Brodie, WorkSafeNB’s youth programs co-ordinator, said they might not even realize they’re learning.

“Throughout the day, students engage with instructors as they learn about how to ensure their own health and safety while at home, at school, and at work, and they are having fun while doing so.”

Brodie was in charge of the hearing protection station, which gave students a chance to test the volume on their iPods and MP3 players. Many were surprised to learn their volume exceeded Health Canada’s recommendations.

“The key to successful teaching is to provide students with visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic learning opportunities, and the Safety Day does just that. Wherever you look, you see children listening, discussing, and doing – and that is how you know there is quality learning going on.”

Brodie said the event helps to plant the seeds of health and safety awareness long before they even start working.

“The hope is that at the end of the day, youth will go home with an enhanced understanding of health and safety principles, which is the main goal of WorkSafeNB’s youth strategy.”

As usual, a second event for the Anglophone School District takes place in Florenceville September 12. 

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