On most Canadian farms harvest time means it s all hands on deck. Everybody has a role to play, from driving machinery or trucks, to preparing food at all hours or lining up deliveries and preparing bins. But all hands can t always do the job at least not if they re small.
Harvest isn t the only time it s busy that many farm families put even their younger members to work. But if you re planning to put your kids to work, take time for safety first. A good place to start is with the North American Guidelines for Children s Agricultural Tasks.
Maybe you ve heard of this manual of age-appropriate tasks but have never taken the time to look at it carefully. Do it today. Your child s life could depend on it.
This manual recognizes that work is an integral and highly valued part of family farm culture. They re prepared by U.S. and Canadian ag safety and child development specialists to indicate tasks kids can handle safely. Your child might be able to handle more or less than the guidelines suggest. Start with the norm and then decide what s best for your child.
There are 62 guidelines in all, organized into seven colourful booklets that have been focus tested with farm families for reading level and usefulness. They cover such areas as animal care, manual labour and haying operations.
Each package covers: Adult responsibilities in assigning children this job; Can your child do this job? (a developmental checklist); Illustrations of main hazards; Supervision levels recommended for different age groups.
Download the complete set of North American Guidelines for Children s Agricultural Tasks at www.nagcat.org/nagcat. Read the sections and consider printing them for future reference.
If you have time to read just one section, make it Tractor Fundamentals. There are practical tips for deciding and guiding re: three-point hitch implements, driving a farm tractor, hydraulics and power takeoffs plus a tractor chart.
It s your decision, but no matter how short staffed you are on the farm, keep in mind that the guidelines recommend that kids under 12 should not operate a tractor of any size. They shouldn t be riding on a tractor either. The most recent report of agricultural fatalities in Canada compiled by the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting program shows tractors were involved in almost half of all agricultural fatalities among children.
And, finally, if your kids are already an important labour source on your farm, remember that while incredibly clever, they don t know everything just because you do. Take time to train them.
So read the guidelines, train your kids and finish this year s fall work safe and sound!