The horrific accident last week that claimed the life of a Westford dairy farmer was in every sense of the word a tragedy
Daniel Banks was only 40 years old, the father of five young children, when his clothing became entangled in a mechanized corn chopper. Banks had been trying to free a frozen power take-off attached to the corn chopper in frigid weather.
“He was a hardworking man, just trying to make a go of it on the farm they utilized,” said Bill Gibson, a veteran farmer and an agriculture educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service of Schoharie and Otsego County. “They were trying to have enough production in these tough times to pay the bills. It’s a lot of work. This is truly a tragic event.”
If he was like most farmers, Banks had no illusions about getting rich from all his daily toils.
Banks and his family lived in a trailer behind the barn at the farm on County Highway 34. The couple’s children ranged in age from a 1-year-old to a student in ninth grade.
“This is really a nightmare for everyone,” said Barbara Hosier of the town of Oneonta, whose daughter and son-in law, Connie and Douglas Lull, rented farmland to Banks and his wife, Mae.
It is a nightmare that occurs to far too many families of the land. The National Safety Council lists agriculture as the most hazardous industry in the United States.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration says that most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery. OSHA suggests machine guarding and equipment maintenance could help prevent accidents.
Among other OSHA farm safety recommendations are these:
• Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals and on product labels.
• Inspect equipment routinely for problems that may cause accidents.
• Discuss safety hazards and emergency procedures with your workers.
• Install approved rollover protective structures, protective enclosures, or protective frames on farm tractors.
• Take advantage of safety equipment, such as bypass starter covers, power take-off master shields, and slow-moving vehicle emblems.
The caring and generosity of farming communities has already come to the fore to help the struggling Banks family. Hosier said checks could be made payable to the Benefit Fund for the Farm Family of Daniel Banks and mailed to 1670 Southside Drive, Oneonta, NY 13820.
“Something like this always hits close to home in a small town,” said Westford Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Ritton. “There has been an overwhelming response to what we want to do for this family.”
Those wishing to help the family can also send donations to the Westford Fire Department, P.O. Box 24, Westford, NY 13488.