Farming is a very rewarding, important and invaluable industry in Canada. But for all of its benefits, it is also one of the most dangerous industries, and the reality of the profession is that children are often around the workplace. This means exposure to hazards including toxic chemicals, unpredictable livestock and potentially dangerous machinery. This exposure makes it absolutely crucial that children be taught about the potential dangers around them and how to avoid putting themselves at risk.
March 14 – 20 is National Farm Safety Week and this year, the Canada Safety Council is reminding Canadian families to take precautions while on the farm, ensuring the safety of children by understanding the concerns and paying attention to detail.
According to a study by Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR), 272 Canadians under the age of 14 died between 1992 and 2012 in agricultural-related fatalities, with approximately 45 per cent of those being four years of age or younger.
The most common causes of death among children are machine runovers (41.9 per cent,) followed by drownings (15.2 percent,) machine rollovers (11.1 per cent,) animal-related injuries (6.5 per cent) and being crushed by or under an object (5.1per cent.)
Often, bystander runovers occur when children are playing on the farm or near a worksite. The farm vehicle is usually inreverse, and the adult is not expecting the child to be there. This fact alone makes it crucially important to set aside an area reserved for playing in the yard. A fenced-in area with self-locking gate closures will ensure that the child’s exposure to runover-related danger is greatly reduced.
It’s important to remember that what may seem to be an obvious safety measure isn’t always so obvious, especially with younger children. Teach them which areas are off-limits or dangerous. As they get older and start helping out around the farm, take the time to teach them the proper way of doing things, explaining and enforcing safety as the primary goal. Keep in mind their limited experience and strength when assigning tasks, giving them age- and size-appropriate responsibilities.
That being said, it’s not enough to tell children how to do things safely. Especially when it comes to work-related tasks, children are driven to follow examples set by their parents and other adults. Farmers and workers have to make sure that they’re following safety protocols and being careful, or the message will ring hollow to children and they will not see it as important.
Take the following precautions to ensure that your farm is safe for children:
Inspect your farm with your children for any areas that contain hazards. Make sure to not only identify the hazards, but also to explain why they’re dangerous to the children and, if possible, take steps to mitigate the danger.
Before setting children to work on age-appropriate tasks, check local laws to ensure that they are of legal age to operate farm machinery.
Train older children before setting them to work on anything. Ensure they understand the proper operation of machinery they’re being asked to use, and that they know what to do at all times.
Never allow extra riders on any equipment. Extra rider runovers are a very common cause of injury.
Drownings on the farm occur, especially among children six years old or less. Fence farm ponds, manure pits, and any other source of water that could pose a drowning risk.
Designate a specific fenced-off area that is solely for playing. Ensure that it is kept far from animals, as even calm and normally docile animals can become dangerous if they feel that either they or their offspring are threatened.
Keep all farm chemicals out of the reach of children and locked away in a cabinet, room or building.
Keep grain bins off-limits for children — it takes only a few seconds for a person to become helplessly trapped under flowing grain, where they could suffocate.
– Canada Safety Council