With school closures as a result of Covid-19, children are spending more time on their family farms and may even be called on to help if family members are vulnerable or have contracted the virus. Farming organisations have issued advice for parents to ensure children stay safe in these unprecedented times.
Farming is well known to have the highest rate of worker fatal injuries in the main industrial sectors – 18 times higher than the average rate across all industries. HSE figures show two children were tragically among the number killed in 2018/19.
Transport, including overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles, was the most common cause of death.
Farm Safety Foundation said children should not be allowed in the farm workplace and should enjoy outdoor space in a secure fenced area. Any access to the work area by children under the age of 16 should be planned and fully supervised by an adult not engaged in work activities. Children under 13 are not allowed to drive or ride on agricultural machines.
The foundation has teamed up with the HSENI to produce an eight-page online booklet for parents, as well as guidance on child safety and resources for Key Stage 1 and KS 2 children, their parents and their teachers. This includes colouring pages, a word search and two videos, Dangerous Playground for children aged 4–8 and Farm Safe for children aged 8–11. There is also a farm safety app called Farm Secure.
‘We don’t know how long this will last and our wonderful NHS workers are already feeling the strain of dealing with the spread of Covid-19,’ FSF said in a statement. ‘We need to take responsibility for our own safety and the safety of our loved ones and not risk any of us having a farm accident that will add to a workforce already under pressure.
‘They are working hard to keep us safe, the least we can do is farm safe for them!’
NFU Scotland is also reminding farmers and crofters to employ the highest possible safety measures and take the time to check over the farm or croft and make any necessary adjustments for child safety. Provisions should also be put in place to socially distance children from workers or delivery personnel who are not part of the immediate household.
Vice president Charlie Adam, who sits on the UK Farm Safety Partnership, said: “We all want our children to be involved in farm life but it is more important to make sure we create a safe environment on farm.
“Technology has changed so much in recent years, which has made a lot of work much more effective but has also made it a lot more dangerous for children to be in or around farm activities. We need, as an industry, to accept the change in times and change our practices with it.
“Farms are not playgrounds and we need to keep children off farm whenever it is not completely safe to have them there. Keeping our children safe and sound has to be a priority for all of us.”