Understanding parent influences on youth decisions to enter agricultural grain storage facilities

Walls, Kayla
Major Professor
Gretchen A Mosher
Committee Member
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Entrapment and engulfment inside agricultural grain bins has historically resulted in abundant injuries and fatalities. A primary population affected by grain entrapment and engulfment are youth under 21 years old, many of whom were working on their family farms at the time of the incident. Family farms are exempt from the Hazardous Occupations Orders for Agriculture, allowing youth under 16 years old to complete any farm task if the farm owner or operator is their parent. Therefore, youth are permitted to work inside and around grain storage facilities at any age.

Parents often supervise their children as they complete agricultural work. The researcher hypothesized that the approach parents take to supervising hazardous tasks may play a role in youth safety outcomes on family farms. The researcher also expected there to be gendered differences in youth decision-making patterns regarding grain storage facilities. Understanding why youth enter hazardous situations and end up entrapped or engulfed in grain was the primary goal of the research.

Little is known about youth decision-making regarding hazardous tasks in agriculture. To determine the factors influencing youth decision making, a scenario-based survey instrument was created that included three scenarios involving grain bins. Participants were limited to students at one Midwestern land-grant university who had grain bin experience as youth. Participants were presented with the scenarios and had to choose a course of action before ranking the factors that affected their decision-making. Afterward, several participants were interviewed. The researcher analyzed all survey and interview data to determine which factors played the most critical role in youth decisions to enter agricultural grain bins.

While further research should be conducted in this topic area, the results of this study conclude that youth know the hazards and honor their personal safety. Youth credited their parents for being their primary teacher about farm safety and trusted their parents in the assignment of appropriate farm tasks. Despite the results, some participants may still choose to make hazardous decisions regarding grain bins. However, this study exemplified youths’ optimistic attitude toward safety on family farms.