5 tips for child safety on the farm

kids in barn

Farming 101: Child safety on the farmFarmers want their children to grow up learning the ins and outs of the family farm and often times children are eager to help out. Farm children start working on the farm from a young age, but making sure they are taking on farm tasks they can handle can help prevent farm accidents.

1 Choosing the right task
According to a Penn State article, Children and Safety on the Farm, injuries often occur when children are doing something beyond their mental, physical or emotional ability. So it’s important to identify age-appropriate tasks when including children in farm chores. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before assigning a task: Does the task require heavy lifting or bending and can the child handle it? Does the task require the child’s full attention and what is their attention span like? Is the child comfortable around livestock? Is the child strong enough to control an animal? Can the child reach all the controls comfortably on a piece of equipment they are asked to operate? Can the child react quickly? Is the child responsible (do you trust them with the task)? Have you demonstrated the task for the child and do they understand it?

2 Practice what you preach
Young eyes are always watching and observing how you handle yourself on the farm. If you are taking shortcuts in a job or activity, a child will pick up on that. Set a good example and practice safety in your own day-to-day activities on the farm.

3 Job Safety Analysis
According to the Penn State article, parents tend to get caught up in going through the motions of the farm and forget that a child may not understand exactly how a particular task works. A Job Safety Analysis (JSA) helps parents break down the steps of any task and identify any safety hazards that may be a part of that job.

A successful JSA will break the job down into four to six steps with each step accomplishing a major portion of the job. Each step of the job should be analyzed for potential safety risks from the obvious hazards related to the task, to the conditional hazards that could take place. Finally, create a recommended procedure, based on the steps and potential hazards, that is specific and complete and minimizes (or eliminates) hazards.

4 Conduct safety audits
Conducting periodic safety audits allows parents to target any potential hazards and correct them. Think about past “close calls” or potential future situations and identify factors that could be responsible. Practice good housekeeping by safely storing chemicals, equipment and tools that a child could get a hold of.

5 Other key safety tips
A child should not be an extra rider — “one seat, one rider.”

Supervise children at all times.

Provide children with protective equipment and teach them when to wear it.

Be a good role model and teach children of the possible dangers associated with your farm or operation.

Encourage children to take part in local farm safety activities.

Sources: Penn State University Extension, Children and Safety on the Farm; eXtension, Age-Appropriate Tasks for Children on Farms and Ranches; and The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT).

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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