Farm Safety for Families
by Lani Carlson, Maine AgrAbility Project Coordinator
Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in the nation1. An estimated 1.04 million children and adolescents under 20 years of age resided on farms in 2009, with about 590,000 of these youth performing work on the farms. In addition to the youth who live on farms, children and adolescents are routinely hired to work on U.S. farms. In 2009, there were an estimated 15,876 injuries to youth who lived/worked/visited a farm in the US 2. With injury rates highest among children age 15 and under, farmers and farm families need to be aware of the dangers for children.
Farm equipment is a source of curiosity for children and tends to draw them towards work areas. The following tips are adapted from the National Safety Council’s Agricultural Division3.
- Do not allow children to roam unsupervised on the farm. Design a fenced “safe play area” near the house and away from work areas.
- Routinely inspect for hazardous from a child’s perspective; correct any immediately.
- Use child-secure latches or locks on barns, livestock pens, chemical storage areas, etc. where imminent danger is apparent.
- Assign age-appropriate tasks for children working on the farm; provide on-going training and continuous supervision.
- Do not leave running equipment unattended. When you are finished with equipment, turn off, release hydraulics and remove keys.
- Do not expose children to hazardous activities such as riding on tractors or equipment.
Farming is typically a family business and children are going to have chores and work tasks around the farm. It is the farmer’s responsibility to provide education and continued training regarding safe work practices.
- Require the use of personal protection equipment such as seatbelts, gloves, and footwear and wearing proper clothing and sunscreen.
- Provide education on the dangers of jumping off of machinery; teach proper mounting and lifting techniques.
- Educate children on livestock awareness, keeping clear working areas and pathways, and danger in chutes.
- Provide additional mirrors, adaptable handles and controls, or other needed tools to adapt for smaller size of a younger worker.
It’s worth looking around your farm with a child’s view; become aware of the hazards.
2 Agricultural Safety: 2009 Injuries to Youth on Farms — USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service
3 National Safety Council’s Agricultural Division, the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), www.ncasag.org.