Beyond the Barn: Keep Kids Safe
As reported by the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, a child dies in an agriculture-related incident about every three days. About 25 percent of those fatalities involve machinery, 17 percent involve motor vehicles (including ATVs), and 16 percent are drownings.
Nonfatal injuries are also a major concern. About 38 children are injured in agriculture-related incidents every day. In 2012, 7,780 youth were injured on the farm and 80 percent were not working when the injury occurred.
So how can you keep your kids and their friends safe on the farm? Here are a few guidelines to consider. Click here to visit the National Children’s Center to access many other resources.
Know your kids
Kids’ curiosities and habits change as they grow and develop. Study up on the various developmental characteristics and consider how this will affect potential risks to the kids on your farm.
Next, generate a list of the biggest risks on your farm. Think about what draws children to those areas and how you can prevent accidents accordingly. For example, toddlers are especially susceptible to chemical poisoning because they tend to put everything in their mouths.
Set rules from day one and explain the reasoning behind those rules. Young children will probably need to be reminded of the rules frequently. Have those discussions and supervise children according to their age.
Also set rules for adults in your family as well as other employees. Remind them to watch for children when working near a designated play area. Post signs to remind them to slow down when driving around the farm.
Care around animals
We often say our kids grow up with “cow sense,” but that doesn’t mean they truly understand livestock behavior and proper handling. Do not let them be in a position where they can be kicked, stepped on or pinched. Children are easily excited, and their loud voices and fast movements are easy ways to spook animals.
In addition, remember that household or farm pets can be as dangerous as livestock. Teach your kids to respect all animals and set a good example with your actions.
Buildings and equipment storage
Machine sheds and barns can be vast “play lands” for kids, but consider and address the hazards in those areas before kids head out for their adventures. Make sure any chemicals are properly stored out of reach. Remove the keys and lock the brakes of any machinery or motor vehicles if possible. Disengage power take-offs when not in use. Park end-loaders, and similar equipment, with the buckets on the ground so kids aren’t tempted to crawl in them and fall.
Safe play areas
Finally, one of the best ways to keep kids out of hazardous areas is to instead create a fun and safe area where they will want to play. Designate a play area with physical barriers such as fences or shrubs that is away from motor vehicle traffic. The area should also be away from open water and within sight and sound of a responsible adult.
Make sure the play area is free of loud noises. This not only protects their hearing, but also helps them to better hear an approaching hazard or call for help in an emergency.
Kids should be sheltered from wind, dust, or potentially hazardous airborne particles. Shady spots are also best; protect kids from heat stress in the summer and sunburn year-round.
Consider purchasing high-visibility clothing for your kids to wear as they play on the farm. This can help you and your team spot them if they stray away from their safe play areas.
As farm kids grow up, they often say that living on the farm provided some of their best learning and play experiences. Keep those kids safe so they can keep sharing their positive stories throughout their lives.
Starting Strong - Calf Care