Keeping children safe on farms has always been a challenge and it is an issue that has been debated for as long as Farm Safety Week has been running .
Sadly, despite the best efforts of parents to keep their children safe, accidents can occur with tragic unpredictable events having far-reaching consequences and devastating results.
One family using their own heart-breaking experience to make a safety plea are the Bunford family from Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. They spoke exclusively to ITV News Rural Affairs Correspondent Hannah Thomas in March about the events of 6th September 2021, when their lives changed forever and why they are now working with the Farm Safety Foundation to try and prevent this from happening to another family in the future.
It was like any other morning for the Bunford family and -the last day of the school summer holidays for nine year-old Tomos, before the start of a new academic term in the Cynon Valley. One of the first jobs of the day was to take water for the cattle grazing on land near Blaenllechau – an activity the family had done together many times.
Dad Rhys, Mum Louise, oldest son Gethin, Tomos and baby Clemmie set off in the pick-up truck with the water bowser on the back. But as soon as they entered the field, alarm bells started ringing – as they could feel the truck and the bowser sliding down the field.
“We could hear the panic in the children’s voices” Louise told Hannah in the report. “They were asking us what they should do.”
“I made the decision that we should all get out” continued Rhys. “If the truck had gone over the cliff at the bottom of the field, we could have all died.”
The family exited the vehicle with Louise managing to push Tomos clear of the doors and pass baby Clemmie to big brother Gethin. But when Rhys looked around, he saw the water bowser heading in Tomos’ direction and Tomos was hit.
After the collision, Louise ran for help while Rhys performed CPR on their son. He continued until the emergency services arrived, and they carried on treatment for two hours, but tragically it was too late.
“We were doing a task we had done as part of our routine for years” said Rhys. “It was nothing out of the ordinary. The field conditions weren’t different, the level of water in the bowser was the same, and the vehicles did not fail post-accident safety checks. But please, we want the farming community to learn from us losing Tomos, and stop and think. You can’t be over cautious. Ask yourself what the risks are from doing any job.”
Over the past decade, an average of 1 or 2 children every year lose their lives on GB farms. Farms can be dangerous places for everyone, but children are even more vulnerable when playing, visiting or helping out around the farm.
There is no doubt that they are wonderful places for children to grow up and many children are keen to help out their parents with farm work however, it is important to understand that each farm task has a certain level of risk associated with it. As Rhys says:
“Assess each situation first. No job is worth the agony of burying a child.”
This is why the Bunford family are teaming up with the Farm Safety Foundation, the Welsh Government and Wales Farm Safety Partnership to recruit children in rural primary schools across Wales to help get important farm safety messages across to their parents via a creative and educational new competition.
In the weeks to come, invitations will be sent to all rural primary schools to invite pupils to get creative and illustrate some simple farm safety messages – what the risks are, and how to avoid them.
As Farm Safety Foundation manager Stephanie Berkeley says: “Children see things so clearly, in a way that adults don’t, which makes the idea of getting them to come up with a safety calendar an inspired one.
“The message is simple, but the possibilities are wide open for children to get creative. I look forward to seeing the entries when they come in. As a thank you for taking part, we will be sending each schoolchild who enters the competition, a copy of the final calendar which they can display in the home offering a gentle reminder for the whole family to avoid harm on the farm each and every day.”
The competition which is being launched today at Royal Welsh Show, will be open to all children of Primary School age in Wales. A judging panel will meet and choose their favourite 12 entries. These entries will then appear as one of the months in the 2023 family planner.
The competition will run from 5 September 2022 closing on 4 November 2022 For more information and Terms and Conditions CLICK HERE