Following on from the moving story of Linzi Nelson, the Farm Safety Foundation’s Stephanie Berkeley asks why we are continuing to allow children to play in a workplace that has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK? What should you be thinking about when inviting children onto your farm? And what advice should you be following to ensure their safety remains the priority?
Farms can be wonderful places for children to grow up, where independence and responsibility are fostered and family relationships are strengthened. They are also a fantastic source of learning where organised visits can inform and inspire children from all backgrounds to learn about where their food comes from and how the industry is vital to everyday life.
But we do know that farms and farmyards are not playgrounds. They can be hazardous places for everyone, not just children, and children are put at great risk of injury when playing, visiting or helping out around the farm. Being hit by, or run over by, farm machinery or visiting vehicles is the biggest single cause of children being killed on farms. Falling from tractors and ATVs; drowning; being crushed or attacked by animals or being hit by falling objects are the other main causes.
On a busy farm, and if proper supervision is not possible, the best way to keep children safe on a farm is to keep them away.
The world of agriculture has changed and we all need to keep up. Keeping our children safe and sound has to be a priority for all of us and it is all the more important when it comes to farm transport.
Over the years, farm machines have got bigger and more powerful. The natural curiosity of children and their fascination for working machines tends to draw them towards busy work areas. But children can be hard to see and they are in great danger of being run over by moving machines – especially at busy times, such as during silage making, grain harvesting and slurry spreading. They also need to be kept away from other vehicles which may visit the farm such as milk tankers or lorries delivering feed.
• Make sure your vehicles have good all-round visibility, check and clean mirrors and windows daily. Keep people including children away from vehicles and areas where there are vehicles moving.
• Make sure your vehicles have good all-round visibility, check and clean mirrors and windows daily.
• Ensure all workers and those visiting the farm wear High Vis jacket so they can see and be seen
• Keep children under 5 in a safe and secure play area.
• At particularly busy times of the year you will not be able to supervise your children fully so keep them away.
Tractors are not designed to carry children.
The law states that no child under 13 years old may drive or ride on tractors or any other self-propelled machine used in agriculture.
Do not be fooled into thinking that children are safe in the cab of a tractor – they are not. Falling from tractors and then being run over is a common cause of fatal injuries to children.
Training – Children aged 13 and over can, with appropriate permission and supervision, drive an appropriate tractor on agricultural land provided they hold a nationally recognised certificate of competence in the safe driving and operation of tractors. The certificate of competence can be obtained by completing a relevant machinery course and then demonstrating their understanding..
• Allow children to ride in the cab of a tractor
• Permit any child under 13 years of age and without the proper training and supervision, to drive a tractor
Quads and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
A farm quad bike is not a toy. Many children have been involved in serious and fatal accidents caused by All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and quads. Only properly trained people, within the age range recommended, (minimum usually over 16 years old), should be allowed to operate ATVs. They must wear the correct helmet, the machine must be in full working condition and they must be adequately supervised. Passengers must never be carried on quad bikes.
• Remember children under 16 must not drive, operate, or help to operate ATVs
• Wear a helmet and get and complete training.
Falls and Falling Objects
The best way of protecting children from falls and falling objects is to keep them away from the farm unless very closely supervised by someone not involved in farm work.
Heavy objects such as spare tractor wheels, old gates and old machinery can fall on people including children so store them flat and secure.
Check that ladders have been stored safely where children cannot climb them. Stacks of hay or straw are not play areas and can collapse or catch fire, killing those under or on top of them. Put ladders away after use.
• Store ladders away after use and out of the reach of children
• Encourage children not to play on or around stacked bales of hay
• Protect open edges and pits so no one can fall.
• Keep children away. At particularly busy times such as silage cutting and harvesting, you will not be able to supervise them properly so keep them away.
• If you are ever in doubt, keep them away!
Most people realise that cows, bulls, and rams are dangerous but female animals with their young can be very protective. They can, and do, attack people as they try to protect their young.
Animals can see children and especially dogs as a threat to their newborn.
Children who come too close to a playful cow, sheep, pig or horse will be seriously injured. Keep dogs away too.
• Fully supervise children when they are visiting the farm to see the animals and keep them out of yards and pens where potentially dangerous animals are kept.
• Build gates and fences so that they cannot be climbed easily.
• At particularly busy times such as calving and lambing season, you will not be able to fully supervise your children properly so just keep them away.
Even apparently healthy livestock can carry disease which can be passed on to humans – particularly children are more vulnerable to the effects of these illnesses and can have very serious organ failure. Keep children away from the farm. If children are in contact with animals, their bedding or areas where there is for example slurry, dung, manure always make sure they wash their hands with soap, change dirty clothing and clean their shoes/boots. If you bring your children to the farm for a visit, after any touching any animals or their surroundings, hands must be well washed with soap and warm water, especially before eating food.
It may appear obvious but you must ensure you lock away all harmful, poisonous substances. Children must never be allowed to pick up spray containers or touch drums containing chemicals used in the dairy. Chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, Animal medicines, dosing guns and syringes must also be put away in a safe secure place and people including children shouldn’t have access..
Slurry Tanks and Lagoons
Children will always try to get into places which are apparently inaccessible. Fence off slurry tanks/pits/lagoons. Keep sheep dippers securely covered when not in use. Make sure tank covers are always in place and, if slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer to stop anything falling in. Remove any ladders or store them out of reach.
Slurry gases are very poisonous. Never put yourself in danger when mixing slurry, keep everyone away. and always keep children away from livestock buildings when slurry is being mixed.
A Safe Play Area
If young children live on, play on, or visit a working farm yard it is essential that an area is set aside to allow them to play safely and to protect them from the many dangers. It should be a secure area fenced with upright fencing to prevent children climbing out. It should also be close to home or farm house so they can be easily supervised.
In short, farms are busy working areas, full of serious hazardsso if you can’t supervise them properly KEEP THEM AWAY.