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Faculty & Staff Honors

Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska Collaboration Helps Farmers Share Stories, Safety Messages

Tell a story, save a life. That’s the idea behind a new project inserting injury prevention messages into first-hand accounts of farmers and others impacted by agricultural trauma incidents.

Telling the Story Project is a collaboration of three regional agricultural safety centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Participating centers include Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (University of Iowa); Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (University of Nebraska Medical Center); and Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (University of Minnesota).

“Farmers tend to be more open to safety messages after reading about a real incident,” says Mr. Scott Heiberger, communication manager at the National Farm Medicine Center and a project collaborator. “Although statistics are important in influencing attitudes and changing behaviors, Telling the Story Project makes safety personal.”

The multi-media storytelling project is being highlighted during National Farm Safety and Health Week, September 16–22.

Stories on the website address agricultural hazards such as manure gases, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), entanglements, falls, ladder failures, flash fires and a common cause of trauma – taking a shortcut. The common thread in the stories: “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Ms. Stephanie Leonard, occupational safety manager at Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, has written most of the articles. Her rapport with farmers and previous position as director of the Iowa FACE (Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation) Program give her a unique perspective and access into farmers and their workplaces.

“Farmers tell me they want to know the facts when they learn about an accident or death,” Ms. Leonard says. “In Telling the Story Project, we want to share that information in a way that’s honest and personal, and that includes the ‘how and why’ these injuries happened, and how they impacted people, even months or years later.

“The experiences of our storytellers stick with you, and I hope they are shared and passed along to help others recognize unsafe situations. They’re great teachers, and we include safety resources that augment their compelling messages.” Telling the Story Project content is meant to be shared.

“Farmers, media professionals, educators, Extension, and safety professionals are especially encouraged to link to the stories and use the content,” says Ms. Ellen Duysen, UNMC’s project collaborator.

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