Owners and workers on New Zealand’s beef, sheep and deer farms are amongst those being encouraged to keep children safe on farms over the school holidays with a heightened risk of accidents on farms.
Accidents involving children on the farm peak over December and January, account for more than 22 percent of injuries to those aged 15 years and under. Seven children died as a result of an accident on a farm between 2013-2015. In the 12 years up until 2015, nearly 20,000 children were injured on the farm.
WorkSafe’s sector leader Agriculture Al McCone says children are a vital component of farming family life and it was important this tradition continued.
“We do not want to stop children having fun on the farm or helping out mum and dad with jobs however farmers are responsible for ensuring children are not put at risk.
“Farms come with big machines, big animals and big pressures. Children and their parents need to be aware of the risks farms present and work to manage those risks.”
Managing the risks for children is different from managing them for adults, says McCone.
“The younger the child, the less risk averse they are, and the more attention needs to be paid by parents or carers.
“Many risks can easily be managed by, for example, using vehicles suitable for passengers, fencing artificial ponds, covering pits, or even creating ‘safe kid zones’ in dairy sheds, or working together with neighbours as farmers have always done. This means farming parents can still keep their children safe during busy work times.”
Parents or carers should lock doors to stop children getting into areas they shouldn’t and remove keys from vehicles children aren’t to drive.
“Even if you have safety guards on machinery, these may still have holes small enough for children to put their hands through.”
Many farmers were used to working alone for much of the year, but it was a good idea to think about health and safety when children joined them on the farm, McCone says.
“Over recent years, of the 14 deaths of children under the age of ten, seven involved the child being near the parents working. If you’re used to working alone, and get stuck on a job or problem, then it’s easy to forget about the kids.”
All three deaths involving children aged between five and 15 since 2013 involved a child operating a quadbike.
“Kids love playing around vehicles like the quad bike or the tractor so walk around the vehicle first and check children are a safe distance away before starting the engine. A few seconds extra care will prevent what could be a tragedy.”
Only those trained and experienced should operate a quad bike, he says.
“Quad bike riders under 16 years are 2.5 times more likely to be injured compared to drivers aged 16–34 years old. Although those aged under 16 years old represent just 16 percent of users, they account for between 37 percent-50 percent of all injuries.”
There are plenty of useful tips and guidance on keeping children safe on farms in WorkSafe’s guide Managing Health and Safety – a guide for farmers which includes a section on children on farms. The guide and other farm health and safety resources are available at www.saferfarms.org.nz.