With long, hot days on the horizon, children will be presenting parents with summer challenges unique to the season. Out with the school bell and the mad dash for the bus; in with curious kids at your feet looking to imitate you at every turn.
For farm kids out on summer holidays, the insatiable need to explore can make for a dangerous brew. That’s why it is imperative for farming parents to establish farm kid no-go zones, as well as a safe play area appropriate to the age of the child.
As a starting point, parents need to know that even if you had eyes installed on the back of your head, constant supervision, while critical, isn’t enough to keep kids safe. While every farm is different, the fact remains that a farm is an active workplace and includes multiple hazards.
Make sure to address as many of those hazards as you can. Fence off water hazards, keep tools out of reach, and remove keys from tractors and other vehicles. Your goal is to create an environment that is safe for everyone, including children.
For young children, a designated and fenced safe play area provides not only peace of mind for parents and grandparents but is also a great addition to your family farm. Play area equipment should be age appropriate. It should be away from any traffic or unstable buildings such as storage facilities, piles of material or open water. It should provide adequate shade as well as shelter from the wind or any hazardous airborne particles. Make sure to talk to your kids about the importance of staying in this play area. And always make sure to supervise them even when they are inside the play area — even the best-behaved kids can wander off. If your child is older, they are still at risk. Monitor them closely. If they are helping out on the farm, make sure they are being supervised and the task is appropriate to their age.
While statistics show that child safety on farms is improving in Canada, likely due in part to better farm safety practices and education, the need for vigilance remains high. Children still die on Canadian farms each year and just one death is one too many.
The bottom line is that leaving small children to play unsupervised near the farmhouse is dangerous. Many on-farm child deaths occur in locations close to the farm home such as the farmyard, farm driveway, barn or sheds. Establishing a safe play area is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
For more information on safe play areas, download a comprehensive guide to safe play areas on farms, and for more resources on keeping kids safe, visit AgSafe Family at the Canadian Agricultural Association website.