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Taking kids safely to work on the farm this Christmas 08 Dec 2014

Miners and factory workers wouldn’t dream of taking their kids to work with them over the six weeks of the Christmas holidays. But for many farming families it’s a reality that their children will be living and helping out in one of Australia’s most hazardous workplaces. 

Kylie Stretton runs cattle near Charters Towers in Queensland and is a mother of two young children, aged eight and ten. She says any time the mother on a family farm wants to be involved in the business, the kids also have to be involved.

“We taught our kids about safety on the farm through very strict boundaries and rules. Until they were four years old they were forbidden from leaving the house yard, but at around 8 years old we had to start working out how they could be involved on the farm safely,” Mrs Stretton said.

In the first six months of this year, 13 per cent of farm deaths and 13 per cent of farm injuries involved children aged 15 years and under, according to the latest report by the National Farm Injury Data Centre.

Research continues to show that dams are the biggest single cause of injury or deaths of children on farms, followed by quad bikes and then injuries associated with other farm vehicles, horses and machinery.

Mrs Stretton also helps her husband Shane run a livestock agency business, is a farming advocate, and co-founded the group ‘Ask an Aussie Farmer’.
“It’s different for every child, when and how they begin to participate in different activities on the farm. Parents know their own children’s limitations and how well they can handle responsibility at different ages. They need to have an ingrained respect for the dangers on a farm and this should start at a young age.

“The main hazards our children face on the farm are common to many families – dams, workshops and motorbikes, and when we’re out mustering you can add handling livestock, dehydration and getting lost.

“Our kids do not use four-wheel motorbikes for farm work, and my husband and I are also moving to using only two wheelers for safety reasons. When we are mustering, the kids are both equipped with helmets and CamelBaks, and we all carry two-way radios to keep in touch.

“At the same time, we have to let them learn from their mistakes, so the occasional minor motor bike accident helps them learn that bikes are powerful and they must respect this and take care.”

As the school holidays approach, with older children back from boarding school in some cases and all children at home through the day, the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) is urging all farm families to think about how to keep their kids safe on the farm. 

Chairman of the PIHSP Advisory Committee, Gordon Gregory, says that growing up on a farm can be a fantastic experience, with plenty of freedom and space to explore, but farm children are also likely to be exposed to a variety of hazards not experienced by other youngsters.

“Children can be unpredictable. They are curious and determined when they decide to do something, but may not be capable of making the right judgements about their safety. If they’re excited or scared, you can’t always rely on them to remember or apply the rules.

“Younger children are at greater risk, with two thirds of children killed on farms being under five years of age. The next bracket, aged 5‐15 years, are more likely to end up in emergency departments with non‐fatal injuries, which is probably a  reflection of them having more leisure activities involving horses and motorbikes, and being more involved in helping around the farm.

“All farm injuries are preventable. Being aware of some of the key risk factors for children around the farm is an important first step,” Mr Gregory said.

PIHSP is funded by the Research and Development Corporations for the meat processing, cotton, grains, fishing and livestock industries as well as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. For more information visit www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP.

For more information about keeping children safe on farms, go to the Farmsafe Australia website: http://www.farmsafe.org.au/content/child-safety-on-farms

TOP TIPS FOR KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE ON FARMS

  • Create an enclosed safe play area for young children, to define the boundary between home and workplace.

  • Make sure that children only ride two wheel motorcycles appropriate for their age and size, and wear helmets. Four wheelers are not safe for children at any age.

  • Make sure that children always wear seat belts when in cars, utes and trucks - on-farm and off.

  • Make sure that children are appropriately instructed and supervised when riding horses, and wear helmets.

  • Never allow children to ride as passengers on tractors, even when there is an enclosed cabin.

  • Make sure chemicals are stored in a secure place inaccessible to children.

  • Reinforce “out of bounds” rules for all children, including visitors.

Source: Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety