It’s sad but true. Sometimes even those eyes in the back of your head aren’t enough to keep kids safe on the farm. You’re standing right beside them, watching, and then in what seems to be slow motion, they fall, they cut a hand or much worse. And you were supervising!
We have to face it — supervision alone cannot prevent injuries to children on the farms. And children are still injured and killed on Canadian farms today.
Data from the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program show 217 children and youth 14 and under, died in farm incidents from 1990-2005. That’s an average of 13 per year. Almost half of them were under five years old and three out of four were boys.
It’s the same in the U. S. where children under 10 years of age account for 26 per cent of all childhood farm injuries. In nearly all cases, someone was supervising the children at the time of injury.
In both countries, most of these incidents occur to children who are not involved in or necessary to the work. They’re sitting on someone’s knee on the tractor or they’re standing just out of range of the machinery operator’s field of vision. Maybe they’re reaching into an animal pen or leaning too close to a saw.
Obviously — these kids are not in a safe environment — even though they’re being supervised. In an active workplace such as the farm, you just can’t provide the very high level of supervision needed to protect young children.
So what do you do to keep your kids as safe as possible on the farm? Supervision is critical but there’s more. You need to provide an environment free of as many hazards as possible — a supervised play area with a fence.
In theory, it sounds so simple and while it’s not all that hard to provide, it’s often difficult to put into practice. There are chores to do and even parents can’t be in two places at once. But supervision and a safe play area will help prevent deaths and injuries to kids on the farm.
CAIR data show an improving safety situation for our kids on Canada’s farms — no doubt due to better child safety practices and more farm safety education for kids but also to the fact that more parents are supervising their preschoolers closely and constantly whenever they are outside the farm home and more often, within safe, fenced-in play areas.
So keep all young children away from farm worksites, fence off water holes and other hazardous areas, put away dangerous equipment and tools, and watch them play safely in a fenced play area.
To double-check that you haven’t missed anything, download SafeKids Canada’s children’s farm safety fact sheet at www.safekidscanada.ca. There are lots of great tips on how to reduce the risk of injury to children while they experience the enriching farm environment.
And better yet, on that same site, look for the booklet Creating Safe Play Areas on Farms. It provides a comprehensive guide for designing and building an outdoor safe play area on a farm. You can download it at SafeKids or go directly to the developer’s website: www.marshfieldclinic.org/safeplay/.