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70 years and counting for Indiana Rural Safety Council

70 years and counting for Indiana Rural Safety Council
Throwback Thursday: How a small but dedicated group of farm safety folks have impacted countless Indiana farm families for 70 years.

The old joke is "that group is so small, they could hold a meeting in a phone booth." It's almost out-of-date because there are few phone booths left in most places. At any rate, Bill Field says sometimes it feels like the Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council might fall in that category. Field is the Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist.

Related: Farm safety 101: Rural firefighters train for grain bin emergency

One of two: Call Bill Field 'one -of-a-kind- if you like. He's definitely one of only two people to lead the Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council as adviser in its 70-year history.

He recently recanted some highlights of the group during a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the group. While it's generally been made up of 15 to 20 members from Purdue, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana FFA, government labor reps and even Indiana Prairie Farmer editors, it's not uncommon to have six to 10 people max at a meeting. Yet here are just a few accomplishments.

• Created farm safety filmstrips in the early days

• Published resources, listing movies and other information available on farm safety

• Held numerous farm safety training field days through the years with good attendance

• Published and continue to distribute farm safety coloring books for kids and supported distribution of coloring books specifically to help curb safety epidemic amongst Amish youth

• Created displays of overturned tractors and grain bin entrapment, and displayed them at Indiana State Fair and Farm Progress Show

• Conducted a blitz of more than a half dozen TV and radio stations more than once for Farm Safety Week, appearing live on local TV news shows to promote farm safety

• Sponsoring group for the Hoosier Safety Council, which existed for about 12 years, and drew large crowds and lots of corporate support during its existence

• Recognized media and others who go out of their way to promote safety with awards

• Supported various efforts of Field's staff in training and in Breaking New Ground by providing financial support or helping distribute information.

The first safety council started, Field says, after Indiana Farm Bureau gave Purdue money to hire a person to work in farm safety, and to lead the fledgling council. The person hired was F.R. 'Dick' Willsey, and he held the post until 1977.

Related: Grain bin safety demonstration will suck you in

Bill Field came on the scene to fill his spot when Willsey retired, and after 38 years, Field still beats the drum for farm safety.

"We've only had two specialists working with this group in 70 years," he says.

Other important things the council has accomplished include preparing annual surveys and reports of farm fatalities and injuries. "No one else was keeping the data," he says.

The Indiana Department of Labor keeps statistics today, as well as Purdue through the Council, but their methods of reporting are slightly different.

The Council today is also publishing a brochure to commemorate 70 years of service. It contains a map with a heart for every person killed in a farm accident from 1980 through 2014.

"Another great accomplishment is that we've seen the average number of farm fatalities drop dramatically even since I came here," Field says. "It varies each year, but the trend is toward fewer farm-related work deaths."

The Council's new theme is "We're committed to keeping hearts at home, not on the map." Learn more at: farmsafety.org

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