AS SCHOOLS close, what risks are there on your farm and what can be done to prevent these accidents from happening? Chris Clement, commercial director for H&H Insurance Brokers, talks about the safety of children on the farm.

“For most, keeping safe under self-isolation presents one set of challenges. However, when your home is a farm, these are somewhat different. Farms are one of the most dangerous places to work but if you add children, the risks increase significantly due to their inquisitive nature and their ability to find danger! With children home permanently for the foreseeable future, if there was ever a time to reflect on health and safety on your farm, it’s now.”

Large and complex machinery, hazardous substances, electricity, large animals, grain stores to name a few, all pose an enormous threat to children. Where a farm is also a home, it is easy to become blind to risks that you see every day. With this in mind, we recommend conducting a simple risk assessment on your farm to identify any risks and implement a plan to make it safer. These changes could mean the difference between life and death.

Most importantly, supervision of a child by an adult following health and safety guidelines should reduce all risks. In addition to supervision comes education of children so that they have a good understanding on health and safety and boundaries of what they can and can’t do on the farm. Providing a dedicated secure safe place for them to play will also reduce the chance of straying. With these in mind, the following should also be addressed:

Farm Machinery – it is against the law for a child under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural self-propelled machines (such as tractors), so keep these locked with no keys accessible and front-end loaders lowered to the ground. To avoid the risk of hitting a child outside of the machine, keep children away from places with vehicle movements.

The Risks from Animals – sadly there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ animal as they could be carrying a disease, or under medication that makes them act out of character. Ensure that children cannot enter any yard, field or pen occupied by potentially dangerous animals.

Electricity - Contact with electricity can kill, cause serious burns and disabling injuries. As with minimising exposure around the home, create boundaries to any electrical areas that could cause harm to a child.

Hazardous Substances – farms need to store dangerous chemicals to function, so it is imperative to keep anything hazardous locked away at all times.

Hazardous Places on a Farm - slurry pits and lagoons, reservoirs, sheep dips, haystacks, grain intake pits and grain bins are all dangerous places. It is recommended to locks doors or create boundaries using covers, fencing and padlock gates for these areas.

Climbing Dangers – any climbing scenario could potentially create an opportunity for a curious child, if you add height to this, it increases the risk. Ensure any areas which could cause danger are secured or locked away as well as the means to climb e.g. ladders.

Social-distancing – Coronavirus is a new farm danger. Children should be educated on the 2m distance rule for those outside the household and stringent hand washing to prevent spread of the virus.

Chris concludes: “Essentially farms are workplaces, not playgrounds, so it’s important not to underestimate the curiosity of a child. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to health and safety, especially when these accidents could be very serious. I would encourage all farmers to walk their land regularly and identify and rectify any potential dangers their children or any other person could face.”