Farming is one of Canada’s most dangerous industries, and children are often present in this workplace – one that exposes them to machinery, chemicals, livestock and other hazards. Too often, children have access to the entire farm and view it as one big play space. Children must be taught about farm dangers and be kept isolated from these risks.
March 14 – 20 is National Farm Safety Week and once again Canada Safety Council encourages all Canadian farming families to ensure the safety of children on the farm. Injuries involving children can be prevented by attention to details, and a sound understanding of fundamental safety principles.
According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program, from 1990 to 2005, there were 217 agricultural fatalities among children and youth aged 14 or younger. Approximately 45 per cent were under the age of five.
Runovers and drownings are the most common cause of fatality among children. Machine runovers caused 42 per cent of fatalities, followed by drownings (15 per cent), machine rollovers (11 per cent), animal-related injuries (7 per cent), and being caught in or under a non-machine object (5 per cent).
Every year, children are run over and killed by farm machinery. Bystander runovers and extra rider runovers cause many agricultural fatalities among young children. Bystander runovers occur when children playing on the farm or ranch worksite (usually the yard or drive way) are run over by a tractor, pickup truck or other farm vehicle. The vehicle is generally reversing at the time of the runover. Extra rider runovers occur when a child falls from a machine they had been riding on as a passenger and were subsequently runover. Enforce a “no extra riders” rule on tractors and other farm machinery.
One of the best ways to keep children safe is to have a designated play area on the farm. Provide fenced-in play areas with high-mounted, self-locking, gate closures for young children. By limiting children’s play areas to a specific location, the safety zone is greatly increased and exposure to farm dangers is decreased.
Teach small children the fundamentals of safety, such as which areas are off-limits. As they grow older, explain why certain things are dangerous. When they start helping with the work, make sure they are properly trained, keeping their limited strength and experience in mind. The safe way to do things is not always obvious to a child, so always explain and enforce the safety aspects of the job. Children often imitate what they see. Above all, farmers and their workers must set a good example, both for their own safety and as a role model for children.
To make your farm more child safe, here are several things you can do to protect them and yourself:
• Inspect your farm for hazards that could lead to injury. Involve your children in the inspection and explain the potential hazards.
• Give older children age-appropriate tasks. Remember they are children – not small adults.
• Make sure children receive and understand safety training before each activity.
• Never allow extra riders on any equipment!
• Check your provincial laws to learn the legal age for operating farm machinery.
• Keep work areas neat and clean and machinery in good repair.
• Make grain bins and work areas off-limits to children. It takes only two or three seconds to become helplessly trapped in flowing grain.
• Keep children away from farm chemicals. Store the chemicals in a cabinet, room or building that can be locked.
• Keep children away from animals, especially in livestock-handling areas. A calm animal can become dangerous if it or its offspring feel threatened.
• Often the victims of drownings on the farm are less than six years old. Fence farm ponds and manure pits, or any other source of water that could be hazardous to children.