Protecting Your Children From Farm-Related Accidents

With the disruption of school this spring due to COVID-19, farm families have been able to spend more time together working on the farm. Although most farm families are used to working with their children by their side, the additional time spent on the farm also means more exposure to farm workplace hazards. With that, it is important for you to continue to educate them about the farm workplace and establish a culture of safety.

The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Safety and Health has identified five strategies (summarized below) to keep your children safe and healthy on a farm.

Do Not Bring Young Children Near Tractors / Self-Propelled Equipment
As a farmer, you may be tempted to invite children to the field as an extra rider or have them sit and play nearby during work. Data shows that putting children in these circumstances can have tragic results.

Tractor accidents account for 40 percent of America’s farm related deaths to youth under 15. It is advised that farmers keep young children away from tractors and self-propelled equipment — including skid-steer loaders and lawn mowers.

Keep Young Children Away from Certain Farm Areas
Any farm contains hazards for young children who lack either the judgment or physical development to estimate the potential for danger.

Keep young children away from areas of a farm where equipment operators may not see them, as well as the following areas:
• Grain and feed storage bins
• Silos
• Manure storage sites
• Chemical storage and mixing facilities
• Livestock breeding areas (especially those with bulls)
• Front-of-shop and/or high-traffic locations

When possible, establish safe play areas for young children that are separate from any work space.

Assign Age-Appropriate Tasks
Children develop at different paces, and any farm work assigned to them should match their physical and intellectual abilities. Consider the following when assigning tasks:
• How long will the task take?
• How much physical strength is required?
• How much supervision is necessary?
• What protective equipment is needed?

When assigning tasks to teenagers, remember to take their individual experiences and judgment skills into account.

For more information on age appropriate tasks, https://cultivatesafety.org/work/.

Ensure a Safe Workplace for Children and Everyone
It’s easy for adults to take for granted workplace areas that could be dangerous to young children or even to less experienced workers. Purdue University has developed a tool to conduct a farm safety inventory. The form is available on their website: https://extension.purdue.edu/INPREPared/farmsafetyinventory/

The form offers step-by-step instructions for a thorough, walk-around farm inspection, documentation for potential hazards, and suggestions on ways to address any hazards. (If the form doesn’t exactly match your farm, use it as a guide to tailor your own form.) Consider involving the entire family in this activity to encourage a culture of farm safety and awareness.

Train Younger Workers Responsibly
Unrealistic expectations of children working on a farm can lead to situations of frustration, property damage, injury or worse. Use this time to train children accordingly and in alignment with age appropriate responsibilities.

It is also essential to serve as a good role model, as children will emulate behaviors they see. Show them how to conduct themselves. Demonstrate safe work practices for them to follow — including proper hygiene and best practices for food and equipment safety.

Again, the silver lining in spending more time together on the farm, is that children can learn more about farm safety and responsibly contribute to farm work. At the same time, you as parents can evaluate and establish their role in creating a culture of farm safety. Protecting everyone will make it easier for farm families to emerge from these uncertain times with your health intact and a readiness to succeed in the future.

Having your children work alongside you on the farm offers many opportunities for them, including, developing work skills, building character, and promoting family relationships. So, let’s do what we can to keep them safe. As your trusted insurance provider, AgQuest/MN River Insurance urges you to establish a culture of safety on your farm that can be passed down for generations.

AgQuest Insurance is an equal opportunity provider.