As part of Farm Safety Week, each day we will be highlighting farm safety tips in the hopes of raising awareness and reducing the number of accidents on Irish farms.
Today’s focus will be on child safety around the farm. Farms are usually family homes as well as workplaces, with children often present. Summer is a particularly dangerous time for children on farms as they’re off school and are about more when farms are particularly busy.
Tragically, 23 children lost their lives on Irish farms between 2008 and 2017.
According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the main causes of fatal accidents involving children are tractors, farm machinery and drowning. Farmers have a huge responsibility to make sure that the risks posed to children on their farms are assessed and controls put in place to prevent farm accidents.
The Higgins family lost six-year-old James in a farm accident. His dad, Pádraig, urges the entire farming community to be vigilant at all times and to remember that a farmyard is not a playground.
The HSA have outlined the necessary precautions farming families must take to help prevent children being involved in a farm accident.
- A safe and secure play area for children should be provided away from all work activities, in full view from the family home;
- Young children should not be allowed unsupervised access to the farmyard;
- Children should be given clear instruction on safety issues on the farm;
- Eliminate the risk of drowning by fencing off/covering all open water tanks, wells and slurry tanks;
- Secure all heavy wheels, gates, heavy equipment and stacked materials to prevent them from toppling over;
- Children between the ages of 7 and 16 may ride in the tractor cab, provided the tractor is fitted with a properly designed passenger seat with seat belts;
- A child under 7 years should NOT be carried in the tractor CAB - irrespective of whether a passenger seat is provided or not;
- Keep children away from dangerous areas such as machinery operation, slurry pits, heights and chemical stores;
- Keep chemicals locked in a secure store when not in use;
- Keep children away from dangerous animals such as bulls, stallions, rams, stags and female animals with new-born young;
- Make contractors aware of the possible presence of children;
- Organise farm safety training for young teenagers eg. tractor safety driving skills;
- Do not allow children under 14 to operate tractors and farm machinery;
- Quads must not be used by any person under 16 years. Any person using the quad for agricultural work must have suitable safety and equipment and be adequately trained;
- Make sure all family members know what to do in an emergency;
- Prepare a list of emergency contact telephone numbers.
A young person aged 14 or over should only be permitted to drive a tractor or self-propelled machine on the farm if:
- They have attended a formal training course;
- They are closely supervised by a responsible adult;
- All the controls are accessible for safe operation by the operator when seated in the driver's seat;
- Controls which operate the PTO shaft, hydraulic devices and engine cut-off are clearly marked to show the effect of their operation.
Talk about safety as a family and put in place simple, practical measures to make sure your children are safe at all times. Farmers must prioritise their family’s safety over anything else. The farmyard is not a playground.
Further reading on child farm safety can be found on the Health and Safety Authority website.