Farmers urged to keep children safe this summer 

With the school holidays upon us, it’s a good time to focus on keeping kids safe on farms.

Summer holidays on the farm are a special Kiwi experience. WorkSafe’s Agriculture programme manager, Al McCone, says kids can continue this great tradition and stay safe and healthy with farmers/carers taking a few precautions.

“Children are a vital part of farming life. Many farmers learned about farming from their parents and want to enjoy their farms with their own families and friends. We want that to continue. The sad fact is that 23 children (aged between one and 15) have died in work-related farm accidents since 2000 and eight of those died in either the month of December or January.”

McCone says it’s about farmers changing their thinking from that of working alone, to having the kids around while they do their tasks. “Of the 10 deaths of children under the age of five, seven involved the child being near the parents working. If you are used to working alone, and get engrossed in a task or problem, then it is easy to forget about the kids. Farmers need to be aware of this and take steps to ensure the kids stay top of mind.”

Taking practical steps like fencing ponds, covering pits, locking chemicals away and being aware when using hot water in dairy sheds will reduce the risk of accidents. “There are some easy steps you can take to keep the kids safe. 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.

“Kids love playing around vehicles. Like the Safekids’ driveway safety campaign says ‘Check for me before you turn the key’. 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.”

Eight of the 14 deaths involving children aged between five and 15 involved a child operating a vehicle. Making sure vehicle operators are competent and suited to the vehicle is essential for their safety.

Kids need to be made aware of where water hazards are on the farm, like rivers, creeks, troughs, dips, tanks, dams and ponds. If they’re prepared and aware, there’s lots of scope for fun.

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.

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