Children who live on farms are at greater risk of injury and death than their parents or other farm workers. In fact, the under-15 age group is one of the most vulnerable to work-related farm accidents in Victoria. They account for one in seven farm deaths.
Common hazards include drowning in dams, tanks and creeks, injury from guns or chemicals, accidents with tractors, motorbikes or other machinery, animals and falls from heights. The main risk factors are inexperience with equipment or animals, and trying to perform a task that is beyond their abilities.
Young children in particular need a safe play area of their own where there are no major hazards, so fencing part of the yard close to the house for your child’s use is important. Older children can be taught farm safety, but still need to be supervised at all times. Most importantly, children learn by imitation. If you practise and value farm safety, so will your child.
It is recommended that you walk through your farm and assess each and every area according to the age and ability of your child. Try to see things from your child’s point of view. What may seem like a dull workspace to you might seem to your child like an ideal spot for play. Educate your children about what the hazards are and find ways to child-proof these potentially hazardous areas, using fences, locks and removing keys to machinery and vehicles.
General safety suggestions
It is impossible to make your farm completely safe, but you can minimise the risks. General safety suggestions include:
- Create a safe play area close to the house, using fences to contain your child.
- Fence off all water sources such as dams, ponds, septic tanks, sheep dips, pools and creeks.
- Make sure that hazardous areas are locked and inaccessible.
- Lock up chemicals and guns.
- Ensure electrical equipment and other dangerous materials are out of reach of children.
- Don’t let your child ride on farm machinery, such as tractors and quad bikes (commonly known as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
- Ensure your child doesn’t have access to any ladders and doesn’t climb to heights such as hay stacks.
- Teach children about both the positive and dangerous aspects of livestock and farm animals.
Rules for older children
Older children can assist around the farm, but they still need to be supervised. Suggestions to encourage responsibility and caution in children include:
- Teach safety rules that apply to the different areas of the farm.
- Make sure your child understands that certain areas are out-of-bounds for them – for example silos, grain loading areas, farm machinery and animal pens.
- Be consistent and discipline your child if they break the rules.
- Reinforce discipline by explaining the hazards and consequences of ignoring safety rules.
Lead by example
A child is more likely to be safety conscious if you are, since they learn by imitation. Make sure your child sees you performing tasks safely. Explain the potential for danger and how injury can be avoided. Lead by example:
- Don’t let your child, or any other person, ride on farm machinery that isn’t designed for passengers.
- Limit the use of motorbikes and four wheelers, make sure your child has appropriate training if using these and do not allow untrained visitors to use this equipment.
- Always use safety equipment, such as helmets, goggles and gloves, where necessary.
- Walk around operating machinery instead of stepping over it.
- Fit roll-over protection (ROPS) to your tractor.
- Switch off equipment before altering the settings.
- Refer to warning labels and follow directions.
- Let others know where you are going, what you’ll be doing and when you expect to return.
- Talk frequently to your child about the safety rules of the farm.
Draw up an emergency plan
An emergency plan for the whole family is vital. Some suggestions include:
- Ensure easy access to a suitable and well-stocked first aid kit.
- Make sure at least one person on the farm is trained in first aid.
- Keep emergency numbers and correct addresses next to the telephone.
- Plan routes to the nearest hospital with an emergency department.
- Regularly talk through your emergency plan with your family and other workers.
- Make sure your children understand what to do in an emergency.
Make sure your first aid kit is well stocked and easy to access. Emergency medical treatment for young children isn’t always the same as for adults. Ideally, all parents should take a first aid course and if possible, one in paediatric (child) first aid. Never hesitate to call an ambulance if your child is injured. Throughout Australia, the standard emergency number to dial is triple zero (000).
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000) for an ambulance
- National Centre for Farmer Health Tel. (03) 5551 8533
- WorkSafe Victoria Tel. (03) 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089
- Victorian Farm Safety Centre Tel. (03) 5335 3703
- Farmsafe Australia Tel. (02) 6752 8218
- Poisons Information Centre Tel. 13 11 26 (24 hours a day, seven days a week)
Things to remember
- Children who live on farms are at greater risk of injury and death than their parents or other farm workers.
- Devise ways to child-proof all potentially hazardous areas.
- Talk to your child frequently about the safety rules of the farm.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
National Centre for Farmer Health
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.