University of Illinois Extension

Agricultural Safety and Health Practices and Issues of Concern in Winnebago County, Illinois

Robert (Chip) Petrea, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Cooperative Extension Service
Department of Agricultural Engineering

Poster Session
National Institute for Farm Safety
Summer Conference
June 23-27, 1996
Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky


Winnebago County Farm Safety Surveys

The Farm Safety WalkAbout and The Agricultural Safety Survey were utilized by a county committee involved in the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Services Community Farm Safety and Health Leadership Development Project. The findings from using the instruments are being used by the Winnebago County Council on Agricultural Safety and Health as an aid in planning intervention activities. The tact of using two random samples allowed advantages over just one sample. In one case, personal delivery of materials allowed committee members to have contact with the target audience. At the same time, this contact allowed local fire departments to make personal contacts in a situation other than an emergency. In the second case, statistical and survey research methodology could be more strictly followed. The random selection of recipients from the same population allowed meaningful comparisons of specific data.

Farm Safety WalkAbout

Farm Safety WalkAbout Instrument. This study used a random sample, n=90, selected from the combined, non-duplicating mailing lists of the Winnebago County Farm Bureau and Cooperative Extension Services, N=608. This instrument was personally delivered by member(s) of the Winnebago County Council on Agricultural Safety and Health committee and the local fire department of the survey recipient. Once the random sample was selected the locations were plotted on a county map containing fire district boundaries. Committee members selected certain fire districts and scheduled delivery of the survey materials. The items delivered included the survey instrument; self-addressed, stamped envelope; and a collection of both farm specific and general safety and health related materials. The multi-page instrument contains specific questions with yes-no answers, specific activities related to the questions, and discussion items related to the house, farm and livestock buildings, farm yard, people, machinery, and activities and training for children under age 19, and demographic questions. Procedures for survey follow-up included a two-week reminder postcard, a four-week reminder postcard, and a six-week reminder letter and replacement instrument.

Response rate -- 44.44% (40 useable responses)

Agricultural Safety Survey*

Agricultural Safety Survey. This study used a random sample, n=90, selected from the combined mailing lists of Winnebago County Farm Bureau and Cooperative Extension Service, N=608. This random sample was independent and non-duplicating to the selection used in the Farm Safety WalkAbout survey. Mailed questionnaires were used. This survey assessed the current status in Winnebago county on selected agricultural and family practices. The 45 items surveyed related to specific concerns with farm equipment, agricultural chemicals, animals, emergency preparedness, and intervention suggestions. Survey follow-up procedures included a two-week reminder postcard and a four-week replacement instrument to those that had not responded at that time.

Response rate -- 66.66% (60 useable responses)

*This is an adapted form of the general survey contained in the Farm Safety WalkAbout materials.

Comparison of Similar Questions

Each of the surveys conducted, as described above, have a specific format and question form. However, similar questions are present in each. Similar in this case means that each question, though stated differently, is analogous in the function it performs and is parallel in the purpose for including the question. The questions in the following list are presented as stated in the agricultural safety survey. The percentages for each question are the percent that answered yes to the question in the form it is presented.

Survey WalkAbout % yes % yes
Are keys routinely removed from equipment? 21.0% 15.0%
Are extra riders allowed on tractors? 68.9% 55.0%
Are extra riders allowed on other machinery? 43.8% 50.0%
Are SMV signs in place on tractors? 70.1% 90.0%
Are the ends and shafts of ptos guarded on all equipment? 75.0% 90.0%
Have designated NO PLAY areas been established on your farm? 54.0% 80.0%
Are all openings to manure pits restricted? 37.0%; 29.6%
Are agricultural chemicals stored in a locked area? 11.6% 20.0%;
Are veterinary supplies stored in a locked area? 13.9% 55.0%
Is an emergency medical service number posted near phones? 80.0% 80.0%
Is there a fire extinguisher in the home? 85.0% 60.0%

Overall Issues of Concern Raised

While much worthwhile data was obtained, several issues stood out as overall issues of concern. These issues are not new, but add to the confirmation that these issues are a needed target for both the general farm safety effort and the specific Winnebago County effort. These general issues of concern are:

  • Tractors Without ROPS
  • Extra Riders Allowed
  • Keys Not Removed From Machinery
  • Unrestricted Manure Pit Openings
  • Lack of Designated and Fenced PLAY Areas
  • Lack of Seat Belt Use by Children in Farm Trucks
  • Unlocked Chemicals and Veterinary Supplies
  • Lack of Emergency Communications Plan
  • Lack of Warning Signs on Hazards


Specific conclusions based on the data obtained are:

  1. The dual random sampling served the intended purposes to:
    1. Collect meaningful data.
    2. Allow county committee members and fire department personnel to be seen in a personal and proactive way.
  2. A perception exists that the Farm Safety WalkAbout is aimed at families with children. This perception was stated both by respondents that completed the WalkAbout instrument and by recipients that returned the instrument unanswered.
  3. Little worthwhile data was collected on the hours spent by children in specific farm work situations. Purposive sampling that limits the distribution of the Farm Safety WalkAbout to farm families with children may elicit additional data in this area.
  4. The Agricultural Safety Survey and the Farm Safety WalkAbout can provide important data for community group use as an aid in intervention targeting and planning.