Children on the Farm

National Farm Safety Week
March 14 - 20, 2011

Farming is a way of life for many Canadian families. It is also one of the most dangerous industries in Canada. Too often, both children and parents consider the entire farm a play space. Farm children live in a workplace – one that exposes them to machinery, chemicals, livestock and other hazards. Children must be kept isolated from these risks.

March 14th – 20th is National Farm Safety Week and Canada Safety Council encourages all Canadian farming families to ensure the safety of children on the farm. Injuries involving children can be prevented by attention to details, and a sound understanding of fundamental safety principles.

Each year in Canada an average of 115 people are killed and another 1,500 are hospitalized due to farm-related incidents. According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program, from 1990 to 2005, 217 children aged 14 or younger were killed on Canadian farms. Approximately 45 per cent were under the age of five.

Hazards encountered on a farm are extremely varied. They range from runovers, to poisoning, to bad tempered livestock. The hazards also change. For example, a field may be a good, safe place to walk one day; but a few days earlier during harvesting, the same field could have been an unsafe place for a child to be.

Runovers and drownings are the most common cause of fatality among children. Machine runovers caused 42 per cent of fatalities, followed by drownings (15 per cent), machine rollovers (11 per cent), animal-related injuries (7 per cent), and being caught in or under a non-machine object (5 per cent).

Machinery: Every year, children are run over and killed by farm machinery. Bystander runovers and extra rider runovers are the most common causes of agricultural fatalities among young children. Bystander runovers occur when children playing on the farm or ranch worksite (usually the yard or drive way) are run over by a tractor, pickup truck or other farm vehicle. The vehicle is generally reversing at the time of the runover. Extra rider runovers occur when a child falls from a machine they had been riding as a passenger and were subsequently runover. Enforce a “no extra riders” rule on tractors and other farm machinery.

Drowning: Often the victims of drownings on the farm are less than six years old. Drowning dangers include dugouts, lakes and ponds, manure pits, and sewage lagoons, among others. Fence farm ponds and manure pits, or any other source of water that could be hazardous to children. Supervise children in and around water at all times.

Livestock: Even good-tempered animals can become dangerous. Cattle can knock down and trample a toddler without noticing the child is even there. A calm animal can become dangerous if it or its offspring feel threatened. Keep children away from animals, especially in livestock-handling areas.

Pesticides and Other Chemicals: Keep children away from farm chemicals. Store the chemicals in a cabinet, room or building that can be locked. Keep them in their original containers, and ensure they are properly labelled. Never throw chemical containers or small leftover amounts in the garbage or otherwise accessible to children.

Flowing Grain: It takes only two or three seconds to become helplessly trapped in flowing grain. Crushed or bridged grain can suddenly collapse. Flowing grain in bins and wagons can drag an unsuspecting victim down like quicksand. Make grain bins and work areas off-limits to children.

The best way to keep children safe is to have a designated play area on the farm. Provide fenced-in play areas with high-mounted, self-locking, gate closures for young children. By limiting children’s play areas to a specific location, the safety zone is greatly increased and exposure to farm dangers is decreased.

Teach small children the fundamentals of safety, such as which areas are off-limits. As they grow older, explain why certain things are dangerous. When they start helping with the work, make sure they are properly trained, keeping their limited strength and experience in mind. The safe way to do things is not always obvious to a child, so always explain and enforce the safety aspects of the job. Children often imitate what they see. Above all, farmers and their workers must set a good example, both for their own safety and as a role model for children.

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For more information, please contact:
Valerie Powell
Communications and Media Program Coordinator
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)
valerie.powell@safety-council.org