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Published on October 22, 2019

grandfather and grandson sitting on tractor at farm

Keeping Children Safe on the Farm

Growing up I was fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time playing at my grandparent’s farm. I have many fond memories of climbing trees, making mud pies, riding my bike down the big gravel hill, and playing with the farm cats. Children who live or visit farms are provided a wide array of experiences they may not receive in the city, but farms can also be a dangerous place for kids – especially during the busy harvest season. 

Children are more vulnerable to the dangers or hazards of farm life than adults. Although there is no way to “child-proof” a farm there are many ways adults can keep children safe.

Machinery Safety

  • Never allow children to drive a tractor. They do not have skills or judgment to operate machinery like a tractor until age 14.
  • Never allow children in work areas, or allow them to play on idle machinery. When not in use remove keys and store them out of reach.
  • Make sure master shields are secure on power take-off units and augers.
  • Always make sure you know where children are when backing up, and double check blind spots.
  • Keep reflectors in good condition, and make sure brakes are working properly.

Livestock Safety

  • Always supervise children around livestock, even when outside a fence.
  • Never allow children independent access to animals.
  • Always wear protective shoes.
  • Begin teaching children age 5 and up the simple rules about livestock such as how to treat them, and where to stand. Always supervise.

Grain Bin Safety

  • Never allow children to play in grain, ride in grain wagons, or get into the bins or hoppers.
  • Don’t allow children in areas where the grain is load or unloaded.
  • Never leave an auger or wagon unattended. Grain accidents happen quickly and grain acts like quicksand.
  • Post warning decals on wagons, and bins.

Pesticides

  • Children are naturally curious, are attracted to bright colors, and tend to put things in their mouths – which is why children are so vulnerable to being poisoned.
  • Know what’s dangerous: pesticides and fertilizers, soaps, bleaches, drain cleaner, dairy pipeline cleaner, paints, fuels, treated seeds, and other chemicals.
  • Teach children at age 2 not to eat or drink anything unless given to them by a familiar adult.  Know that they may not remember these rules.
  • Do not allow children on recently treated grass or ground.
  • Keep toxic substances in original containers with labels.
  • Keep gas and fuel in proper containers.
  • Keep all toxic substances (including spigots, hoses, pumps, and rags) on high shelves in either a locked building or inaccessible area.
  • Never leave toxic products unattended during use, and avoid using poisons in front of children.
  • Do not mix poisons in containers once used for food and drink. Mark with poison decals.
  • Discard dangerous substances properly, in a way that children do not have access to them.

Preventing Falls

  • Never allow children to enter a farm building alone. Lock silos and bins.
  • Make fixed ladders inaccessible; store portable ladders out of reach.
  • Fence farm ponds and manure pits.
  • Cap wells with cement.
  • Store tools out of reach; lock sheds.
  • Lock unloaded guns in a separate location, away from locked ammunition.
  • Place unused dual tires flat on ground; do not prop against building or tree.

Farms provide lots of opportunities for children to learn and explore, but it is important that adults are diligent in keeping kids on the farm safe from various hazards. Always supervise children on the farm and explain important rules and safety guidelines to them.

By Patricia Bates, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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