child; farm; safe; safety; drown; horse; ag-bike; accident; injury; injuries; occupational; bite; gun; animal; poison ;
There are lots of good things for children about living on a farm or being able to visit a farm. There are also some special dangers. For all young children the most dangerous place is home, and this is especially the case when the family home is a farm. Children are much more likely to get hurt if they live on a farm than if they live in the city. Sometimes they get hurt outside on the farm and sometimes inside the house.
About 20 children aged 0 to 14 years die on Australian farms each year and around 600 are admitted to hospital because of farm-related injuries. Many more children have injuries that don’t need admission to hospital, but which are a cause of unnecessary pain and distress for them and their parents.
Farm safety is important!
This topic is a brief overview of some of the dangers specific to farms, and how child injuries can be prevented.
Farmsafe Australia also has an internet site with a lot of information on child safety:
The Farmsafe site also has much information about occupational health and safety for adults on farms.
Some of the things that can cause injuries to children on farms include:
- falls from farm machinery, especially tractors
- loud noises
- unsafe use of guns
- exposure to agricultural chemicals
- being able to get to water, such as dams, irrigation channels and tanks.
For children aged 0 to 4 years, the most common cause of death is drowning, while for older children, causes include quad-bikes, farm machinery and animals (mostly horses).
Education about how to use equipment safely is very important, but education is not enough to keep children safe, especially young children. Adults need to keep children safe.
are children at risk of injury on farms?
- A farm is not only the child’s home, but it is also a workplace.
- Children are exposed to machinery and other risks in ways that city children are not exposed. It is normal for children to want to be with their parents while their parents are working, and also for them to want to do things that their parents are doing.
- As well as being small, and not as strong as adults, children cannot understand dangers, they do not have the skills that adults have, and they cannot keep themselves safe.
- During holidays, many children visit farms – these children would be even less aware of the dangers on a farm, and are at greater risk of injury.
- It is normal for children to explore their environment. There are many potential hazards on farms, including dams, creeks, irrigation ditches, wells, ladders, as well as all the farm machinery.
Teach your child what to do if there is a fire, if someone has a fall, if they find something dangerous, if you get injured, or if they get injured when they are by themselves.
- Do they know how to call for help?
- Can they use the telephone?
- Are the numbers they may need to call next to the phone?
- Do they know where the first aid kit is, and could they carry it to you?
Do a First Aid Course – all of you!
parents can do
- Most injuries can be prevented by adults, and it is the responsibility of parents, or other farm workers to keep children safe.
- The parents of child visitors to a farm must also take responsibility for keeping their own children safe.
These are some things that can be done to help keep children safe on farms. It is best to get rid of risks entirely, but if that can’t be done, there are various ways to lower the risks.
rid of the risk
- Whenever you can, try to get rid of the risk. For example when chemicals have been used, do not store the small amount left, get rid of it.
- Do not keep guns on the farm if at all possible.
children from getting to the risk
- Always leave farm machinery turned off, keys removed and stored out of reach.
- Leave safety equipment (brakes etc.) in place.
- Store all chemicals in locked cupboards, with keys removed and put away.
- If guns must be kept, lock them away. Lock ammunition in a separate place.
- Fence off water areas such as dams.
- Securely cover wells and tanks.
- Keep ladders lying on the ground where they are great to play on, or stored where children cannot get to them.
the risk (make the risk less)
Make the machinery or place as safe as possible. For example, use roll cages on tractors, and seatbelts in cars and trucks.
Fill in unused irrigation ditches.
what the child does
- Help the child learn to obey safety rules.
- Older children love riding quad-bikes and horses, but they are dangerous. The children should wear helmets every time they are riding.
- Children should wear ear protection when they are around loud machines (adults need them too)
- Being in the sun is another danger on farms. Dress your child with protection from the sun in mind (hats, long sleeved shirts and trousers). Use sunscreens on parts of the body that cannot be covered by clothes (see the Sun protection topic).
- It is not possible to remove all risks – the responsibility for keeping a child safe belongs to the adult who is caring for the child.
- Always check where your child is before starting machinery.
- Always watch young children when they are playing in or near water.
- Children who live in the country are more likely than city children to be accidentally poisoned by things around their homes.
- Some of the biggest dangers are rat and mouse poisons, poisonous plants, chemicals used for spraying plants, petrol and other cleaning products.
- The highest danger is in the first four years of life. This is the time when it is most important to make sure that your children are protected from poisons.
- Never keep poisons in containers that have been used for food or drink. A very common way children are poisoned is by drinking the fluid in a reused drink bottle.
- Keep the Poisons Information telephone number by the phone. This number is 13 11 26 for the whole of Australia.
- Always ring this number before treating your child – some poisons cause more damage if the child vomits up the poison, while for others vomiting safely reduces the amount of poison in the body.
- Farms are one of the very few places that children see their parents at work.
- If you want children to act safely they must see you acting safely – they do what you do, not what you say.
- If your children see you driving safely when they are young, they are more likely to drive safely themselves.
- Regularly check everything to make sure it is safe.
- Take older children with you, and ask them to tell you if something is not safe.
- Get them to help you make it safe.
- Ask for their ideas.
- Make the rules clear – children need parents to set rules and to supervise them.
- Don't assume that your children know the rules.
- Ask them to repeat the rules to you e.g. swimming in dams by themselves, or riding on moving tractors is "not allowed".
- All of the time when you are keeping children safe, tell them what you are doing, and why. As they grow, they need to learn to know how to keep themselves safe.
- Help children to become good at doing things. Children need to be able to practise skills to become safe. For example, they need to learn how to use a knife safely, and how to climb a tree or a ladder.
- Teach them about animals and snakes and what to do if they are bitten.
- Many children get a great deal of pleasure from horse-riding, but it can also be dangerous.
- Make sure that children are taught how to ride a horse, and are watched until they are confident and capable.
- Horses ridden by children should be chosen carefully.
- Make sure children do not wrap the lead rope around their hands or fingers when leading a horse.
- Try not to walk behind horses. If it is necessary to do so, it is safer to walk close to the horse's hind legs. Keep your hand on the horse when walking behind it, so it knows you are there and will not be surprised and kick.
- Watch that children are not walking alongside horses through narrow gates or passages where they could get crushed.
- Riders should wear helmets [Australian Standard 3838:2006] and boots with smooth soles to help avoid the boot getting caught in the stirrup in case of a fall.
- Teach children to be aware of things that could frighten a horse and cause it to shy.
Note: A study of children admitted to hospital with horse-related injuries in New South Wales has found that 5 out of 6 children with severe head injuries died. Medical professionals indicated that the potential for serious injury or death is high, and recommended the mandatory wearing of helmets for children riding horses. Closer adult supervision could also help minimise the risk of injury. (Reference: Youth Studies Australia 2002, V21, No1.)
- Parents are responsible for children's safety.
- Check around your house and farm for risks to children, and do something about them.
- Children who are visitors may be more likely to be hurt because they don't know about the dangers on farms.
- Involve your children in helping to make things safe, so that they are learning what to do for themselves.
- Show how to act safely by doing it yourself.
Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety
Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne) Child Health and Safety Resource Centre
Victorian Injury Surveillance and Applied Research System (VISAR). Monash University Accident Research Centre. Hazard (publication about injury risk and prevention).
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.