THE main responsibility for securing the safety and health of children and young people rests with adults.
All family members and people working on farms are required by law to do everything reasonably practical to ensure the safety and health of children and young people on the farm.
It is often believed that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who die in farm accidents are farm children.
The key risk areas to child safety are:
• No safe play area: Having such an area is strongly recommended by the Health & Safety Authority for children under five years of age.
• Lack of supervision: Children require supervision at all times. Always get two or three days’ notice when children are bringing home friends from school so as proper supervision is in place.
• Children driving or operating farm machinery: Children under 16 years of age should not operate self-propelled machinery, power-driven machinery with cutting, splitting or crushing mechanisms. Using chemicals should also be considered off limits. Keys should be removed from vehicles and controls left in neutral. Lower any loaders to the ground and apply the handbrake.
• Risks posed by animals: Animals need not be dangerous to pose a danger to children; sheer size can cause serious injury from crushing. Veterinary medicine not securely stored may also cause death. Children should be trained to always wash their hands after being with animals or pets.
• Stacks of bales: Children should be discouraged from using bales of any description for playing. It is very easy to fall from stacked bales resulting in serious injury or fall between them leading to suffocation. Make sure there is no evidence of children burrowing under stacked bales. Keep matches in a safe place.
• Chemicals: Children under 16 should never handle chemicals. Always keep them in their correct containers and securely stored.
• Drowning – water and slurry: Slurry pits and lagoons should be safely secured. Children should never be in the vicinity during slurry agitation or spreading. Sheep dips and water tanks should be kept covered when not in use.
• Ladders: Store ladders flat on the ground or on wall brackets to prevent children climbing.
• Carrying passengers on farm machinery: Be very aware that children can interfere with controls, if left alone in a tractor cab. Many children have been killed falling from the door or rear window of tractors. There is also the possibility of been distracted when doing intricate jobs which is not taken into consideration.
• Contractors should always be made aware of the presence of children.
Remember, farms are not playgrounds. Children will often get into apparently-inaccessible places. Make sure you exclude them from potentially dangerous areas. They should not be allowed in farmyards on busy days.