Racing around on motorbikes, riding horses, swimming in dams and generally getting dirty is a dusty dream-world for the many children visiting farms these summer holidays. But they’re not always as aware of potential dangers as those who live there, so it’s important to set some rules and boundaries to keep everyone safe.
Children under 15 years old make up about 20 per cent of the on-farm deaths in Australia each year, and nearly one-third of those children are visitors, according to the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS).
Historically the biggest risk has been drowning, but quad bikes are an increasing issue, with two deaths involving children recorded in the first half of 2015.
Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) Advisory Committee chairman Gordon Gregory says that farmers should make sure they have secure safe play areas for young children, and keep all children off quad bikes completely.
“Quad bikes may look stable and easy to ride, but kids are not big enough, strong enough and coordinated enough to operate these potentially dangerous machines. They also don’t have the emotional maturity,” Mr Gregory said.
“While your own kids may help around the farm on a regular basis, it’s important to keep an extra close eye on any visitors who aren’t accustomed to livestock or the machinery and equipment you’re using.
“Fencing younger children into secure play areas may not win you any awards in the popularity stakes, but we cannot afford to lose any more young Australians in preventable incidents.
“A cautious approach should be used by parents this school holidays!”
PIHSP has produced a video, Farm safety for kids, featuring youngsters Ella Beth and Clancy Stretton from Charters Towers, Queensland, which can be found on the RIRDC YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/RIRDC.
The goal of the Partnership is to improve the health and safety of workers and their families in farming and fishing industries across Australia. It is funded by the Cotton, Grains and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations, as well as the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia. For more information, visit www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP.
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