Keeping Children Safe on the Farm
This week is Family Safety Week (#FSW) and with schools closed and hospitals preparing for or admitting Coronavirus patients, the RoSPA have changed their theme for the week to the ‘Accident Free, Avoid A & E’ campaign.
With schools closed and many farms suddenly becoming busy, what better time to highlight the HSE advice on preventing accidents to children on farms?
Agriculture is known to be one of the most dangerous professions in the UK, with one of the highest numbers of fatal injuries. However, it is almost unique in having high-risk workplaces that are also homes, with children very often present on the farm.
Consequently, deaths and injuries of children on farms are heartbreakingly more common than anyone would ever want, and avoidance of such deaths are very often avoidable.
According to HSE research, the most common causes of death on farms of children and young people (up to the age of 18) were:
- falling from vehicles
- being struck by moving vehicles or objects
- contact with machinery
- driving vehicles
- falls from height
- drowning and asphyxiation
- contact with animals
The children who died were:
- being carried as passengers on agricultural plant and machinery
- not under proper adult supervision
- working/helping around the farm
- playing unsupervised
All farming businesses should have up-to-date risk assessments and, with children currently not in school and thus more likely to be on the farm (whether this is children who live on the farm or bored children trespassing), now is a good time to consider this carefully and ensure that all employees are familiar with it.
The HSE have provided more guidance here on how to carry out a thorough risk assessment.
Some things for you to consider could include;
- Are there children present on the farm? If so, what measures are in place to ensure they have a separate and safe place to play? Are staff aware of what they should do if they see an unsupervised child in the work area?
- If children are old enough, are they fully aware of the dangers present on the farm and where they are not allowed to go?
- What procedures do you have in place if yourselves or an employee are unable to arrange childcare? Bringing a child to work is not a solution!
- Is everyone on the farm (including older children) aware of the laws regarding children on ATVs, trailers, tractors and self-propelled agricultural machines? It is illegal for children under the age of 13 to be in, on or under control of any of the aforementioned (with the exception of trailers, where children under 13 are allowed to ride on trailers provided there are adequate means such as edge protection).
- When considering things such as falling objects, heights and potential for drowning and asphyxiation, try to put yourself in the position of a child. Don’t underestimate their curiosity and ability to get to the most inaccessible of places!
- What are the risks of livestock on the farm, both from injury and from disease?
- Are all hazardous substances stored correctly and out of reach of children?
- Have you put reasonable measures into place to deter access to trespassers?
- If there are young people who are legally old enough to work on the farm, have they been provided with adequate training and are the tasks that they have been given suitable for someone of their age?