It happened again this year between seeding and harvesting. A 13-year-old boy was killed in a combine accident at one colony, a 10-year-old boy was killed by a forklift at another, 2 more boys were maimed in separate auger incidences at different colonies; one had his arm torn off and the other his hand. The list goes on.
In 2012 when Hollywood did a number on the King Ranch Hutterite Colony in Montana by turning them into scripted twisted versions of themselves for cash and ratings, it fortified misperceptions about Hutterites. To counter the distortions the reality show created, John Adams, from USA Today contacted me with a list of the 10 most common myths about Hutterites.
One of them was: Hutterites don't teach their children basic farm safety and have a high rate of serious or deadly accidents. Many of the myths Adams proposed were blatantly false but this one struck a chord.
When the Notley government in Alberta initiated the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act this past January it caused outrage and demonstrations from the farming community. Hutterites joined the protest against Bill 6 even though they were exempt from the legislation.
“On this Bill 6 thing, we were up in protest and we were saying we love our children, we take care of our own,” says Paul Wipf, the farm steward from Viking Colony near Edmonton. “And then it dawned on me; you are part of this protest but what do you really know about the risks?”
Don Andrechek one of the premier safety program developers in Canada waded into the debate by writing an open letter to the Hutterite community offering to develop a specific program for Hutterites, “Hutterites are unique, “Andrechek explains, “because they have so much more big equipment and children per square inch than other farms. My goal is to prevent unnecessary deaths and life altering injuries,”
Wipf took the initiative and invited Andrechek to do a presentation at Viking colony.
“Growing up on the colony I could have been dead a thousand times….and that was from growing up ignorant and not knowing the dangers,” Wipf admits. “We want our belief, we want our way of life, but no one is saying, what about our children, what can we do?”
Wipf and the safety consultant toured the colony before the presentation including the kitchen and washhouse while Andrechek pointed out obvious (big machinery) and not so obvious hazards.
“On colonies I see young men grinding metal without sufficient eyewear and using the wrong respiratory equipment in the barns,” Andrechek reveals. “The ladies are using dust masks instead of a vapor cartridge when painting with Varsol and don’t understand why they have such headaches. When you don’t understand the chemicals you’re using it can lead to higher rates of respiratory illnesses and cancer.”
Andrechek insists that both children and adults should be taught safety rules, but at the end of the day, “the adults have the ultimate responsibility. When we are too involved in our work, the children get hurt. We have to become accountable for our children.”
I can still hear the heart-wrenching cries of the parents at a funeral I attended for a beautiful 6-year-old Hutterite boy. His father had accidently driven over him with a tractor. You can not imagine the anguish.
“How do you go on,” Wipf laments, “How do you live with that?”
The obvious answer is that leaders on Hutterite Colonies should take responsibility for the safety of their people by having the entire community attend health and safety workshops like the one Andrechek has developed. Guidelines unique to Hutterites are essential. It would save a lot of young lives.
Mary-Ann Kirkby is a professional speaker and the award-winning, best-selling author of I Am Hutterite, and Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen. Available online at www.polkadotpress.ca or https://www.facebook.com/maryannkirkbyhutterite/
Contact Mary-Ann at email@example.com or by FAX at 306-922-4810.
For information about Don Andrechek’s safety workshops e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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