Farms may conjure an image of a picture-perfect landscape, with children running and playing in green fields. But farms come with their own dangers. And there have been plenty of debates and yes, arguments, over the years on what should be done to ensure the safety of children who live or work on our farms.
If the family business were medicine or construction, there would be little chance of a child wielding a scalpel or shingling a roof. But on a family farm, children as young as 10 are driving quads and tractors and doing work that may be part and parcel of a rural life but that also contributes to killing and injuring children and teenagers every year.
We all agree that 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, given the tragic reality that three children lost their lives over the past month on British and Irish farms, we also know that farms and farmyards are not playgrounds.
They can be dangerous places for everyone, not just children, but children are still being put at risk when playing, visiting or helping out around the farm. It’s not hard to imagine a child being killed by falling off a tractor, being crushed or attacked by an animal, or suffocating in a grain silo but, as we have seen recently, being hit by, or run over by, farm machinery or moving vehicles remains the biggest single cause of children losing their lives on our farms.
Children can be eager to help out with farm work alongside other family members however, it is important to understand that each farm task has a certain level of risk associated with it.
With more children spending more time on farm as a result of the recent COVID19 pandemic, we created a new Farm Safety Guide for Parents with some key reminders of what children should and shouldn’t be doing on the farm.
Please CLICK HERE to learn more
• Children should not be allowed in the farm work place (and for young children they should enjoy outdoor space in a secure fenced area).
• Any access to the work area by children under 16, for example for education, or knowledge experience, should be planned and fully supervised by an adult not engaged in any work activity.
• Children under the age of 13 years are not allowed to drive or ride on any agricultural machine.
The safety of children on busy working farms is something that needs our urgent and consistent attention. We will continue to deliver the hard and sometimes unpopular message that farms are NOT playgrounds and farming is NOT child’s play. We need to take safety seriously so, on a busy farm, and if proper supervision is not possible, the best way to keep children safe is to keep them away.