There’s a new kind of tag for children

Kids, pets and moving machinery are rarely a safe mix. To improve the odds, three Saskatchewan farm couples have partnered to form Prairie Tech Enterprises and begin manufacturing a child safety device they perfected after more than two years of trial and error involving their own young children. The plastic casing is manufactured in Saskatoon, the electronic component in Toronto.

Kids, pets and moving machinery are rarely a safe mix. To improve the odds, three Saskatchewan farm couples have partnered to form Prairie Tech Enterprises and begin manufacturing a child safety device they perfected after more than two years of trial and error involving their own young children. The plastic casing is manufactured in Saskatoon, the electronic component in Toronto.

These farm families identified a particular need and set out to  create a unique invention, making it available to everyone.

Prairie Tech Enterprises recently received a Gold Standard innovation designation for their specialty product at the annual Western Canada Farm Progress Show in Regina. To merit the award the five judges weighed how widely applicable Prairie Tech’s product is to farm safety, and whether it is a new invention.

Known as WhereAbouts™, the device has two components, a receiver in the cab of the vehicle and a RFID-coded (radio frequency I.D.) wristband.

Each child will be equipped with a wristband (or tag) that sends a signal to the receiver and by means of a loud beeping or flashing light, alerts the driver of the vehicle to the child’s proximity. The device has a signal range of 100 feet.

The receiver can run on battery power or a 12 volt power source allowing it to be plugged into any vehicle, tractor or combine cab. A suction cup on the back of the unit is used to attach it to the window or dashboard and makes it easy to move it from one vehicle to another.

WhereAbouts™ is sold as a set consisting of one receiver and one wristband. Additional wristbands may be purchased individually.  All wristbands are compatible with all receivers so that as long as your child or pet is wearing their wristband or tag, they will be safe anywhere a WhereAbouts™ receiver is in use.

The wristband runs off a watch battery with a life of from three to six months, depending upon the consistency with which the wristband is worn. It can be worn on the body, attached to clothing or in the case of animals, on a collar. Kids soon forget they’re wearing the wristband. One mother attached the wristband through the back belt loop of her three-year-old’s pants where he couldn’t reach it.

An auxiliary signal can be purchased to relay from an auger or other equipment beyond the main device in a tractor or truck.

So far, a fuel trucking company that delivers to farmsteads is using the safety device. Prairie Tech is looking to outfit more trucking companies including those who haul livestock, or milk from dairies.

Annual reports by Canadian Agricultural Safety Program points to the need for greater safety on farms. Its Summer 2010 report notes 114 deaths occurred on Canadian farms, as well as 1,499 serious injuries. Fifteen percent of deaths were children of owner/operators. That’s 17 kids killed.

One farmer, who is far more safety conscious following a close call around machinery, says his main safety device is to ask himself, “What would my wife say if she saw me doing this?”

By harvest time, WhereAbouts™ should be available in unlimited quantity, ordered from the company’s website. The basic unit costs less than $500, individual wristbands about $100. Prices have not yet been established. Negotiations are underway to enlist local retail outlets willing to sell the product.

According to the U.S. National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation. All the more reason for farm families to buy and always use this safety device just as they do booster seats and seat belts.

But just as it took federal legislation and police roadblocks to enforce seat belt use, I predict not everyone will rush out to purchase one of these units voluntarily. Some may  be put off by the price which, when compared to the cost of the average plastic toy today, is modest indeed.

There is also the risk of kids not wearing their wristbands when a fuel truck arrives unexpectedly.

To keep kids safe, their wristbands need to be worn at all times like underpants.