Keeping children safe on the family farm
Claims Team Leader Arthur Denton reminds farmers of the importance of keeping children safe in this potentially dangerous environment.
The social distancing measures put in place to slow down the spread of coronavirus mean that many of our Members are dealing with the challenges of balancing farm work with looking after children.
This is a challenging time for farming families with children at home. Every farm is different so it is up to everyone to assess the risks to family members, but these are some of the key issues to consider:
Tractors and farm machinery
It is illegal to allow a child under 13 to ride on or drive machines such as tractors. Children aged 13 or above may drive agricultural vehicles if they have attended a training course, run by a competent person, and meet the conditions set out in the HSE publication Preventing accidents to children on farms.
Children under 16 must not drive, operate or help to operate machines such as towed or self-propelled harvesters and powered cultivators. You should familiarise yourself with the age limits and guidelines for the various types of machinery on your farm before allowing any child or young person to ride on them, operate them or assist in their operation in any way.
When children are carried on trailers, ensure that the trailer is in good condition with all safety devices working, guard rails are fitted, and seats are provided and secured to the trailer. There should also be safe mounting and dismounting arrangements. Children must also be supervised by a responsible adult who has a means of contacting the driver.
Children and livestock
Animals do not need to be aggressive to pose a threat to children. Even ‘playful’ farm animals can kill or severely injure a child, and any animal may carry a disease that could be passed to humans. Ensure that children cannot enter any yard or pen occupied by potentially dangerous animals. Do not allow children to look after animals or poultry without competent supervision.
Lock away any veterinary medicines and application equipment to ensure children do not touch them. Remember to wash your hands after handling livestock, especially around children.
Safe spaces to play
With children around, you will probably need to take steps to make the farm environment safer. Make sure slurry pits, lagoons and reservoirs are properly fenced off and that fences are sturdy, and in good repair. Cover and fence all sheep dips and secure tools and work equipment.
Children may see items around the farm yard, such as tractor wheels or ladders, as play equipment. Check that gates are properly erected and will not topple, store tractor wheels flat or firmly secure upright, store ladders safely and ensure that children cannot gain access to grain bins.
Keep children away from areas where vehicles or machinery are in use. Make sure that operators know that they should stop work if children stray into their vicinity until the children are removed to a safe area.
These are extraordinary times but it is as important as ever to adhere to health and safety advice to protect children on farms.
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