Farm safety risks for children
A farm can be a place where families work, live and play.
But farms are also workplaces which present serious death and injury risks to children when they play or help on the farm.
Children perceive the world differently to adults and they may not always be able to predict or respond to an unsafe situation.
There are a range of health and safety risks for children on Victorian farms, with statistics showing that the main risks of serious injury and fatality are:
Drowning is the leading cause of child farm deaths, with dams the most common place children drown.
There are many examples of children being seriously or fatally injured when operating different farm vehicles.
Children should only ever operate age appropriate equipment based on the vehicle manufacturer's advice. It's important to recognise that children lack the body weight, strength and judgement to handle a full-sized vehicle, such as an adult quad bike. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to operate an adult quad bike.
Machinery and attachments
All farm machinery can have potentially fatal consequences if used by children. Younger children are most likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries when playing on or near tractors. Older children are likely to be injured while driving, as passengers on machinery or when carrying out farm tasks.
Children can lack the judgement to deal with animals safely. A child might not have the size, speed and understanding of how to get out of the way safely.
Other hazards and causes of injury to children on farms include falls from height, silos, chemicals, contact with electricity, noise and firearms.
Why children are at risk
A child's age and development characteristics can increase their risk of injury.
When there are children on farms, it's important to remember that they:
- have less strength, co-ordination and understanding of situations than adults
- can get distracted easily
- may want to explore, try new things or push boundaries
- may be impulsive and take risks beyond their capabilities
- may be overwhelmed and slow to respond in unexpected situations
How to keep children safe
Create safe play areas
Younger children on farms need a safe area to play where there are no hazards. Walk around the farm and look at it from a child's point of view. This will help you develop ways to keep children safe by:
- creating a safe play area, especially for younger children such as a securely fenced house yard to define boundaries between safe and unsafe areas
- ensuring children staying in a safe play area until someone can take them out under adult supervision
- creating 'out of bound' areas in and around silos, grain loading areas, farm machinery, power tools and animal pens
Know your legal duties
You have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. Some examples of these duties include making sure:
- your farm is a safe working environment without risks to the health and safety of your family, other workers, farm visitors and contractors
- people can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health
- you report notifiable incidents to WorkSafe and keep the worksite undisturbed
- the worksite remains undisturbed after an incident happens until an inspector arrives at the site or until an inspector directs when the Authority is notified of the incident.
Reduce the risks
Adults can most effectively reduce safety risks to children on farms.
Some ways to reduce risks on farms include:
- making sure children always wear seatbelts when in any moving vehicle
- preventing children from riding on tractors, attachments and the back of utes
- using safety guards on all machinery
- making sure children always wear helmets when riding any bikes or horses
- keeping doors shut or locked, and removing the keys, so children cannot access unsafe areas
- using suitable storage systems for dangerous chemicals
- making sure that any bikes children ride, including motorbikes, are appropriate for their age and height and are in line with manufacturers' specifications
- teaching children the dangers of speeding and riding on uneven ground
- making sure children know what to do in an emergency, including what to do, where to go and who to call
- teaching children about water safety and, where possible, fencing off dams, ponds, septic tanks, sheep dips, pools and creeks
- preventing children from lifting heavy items
Farming: Safety basics
Keeping children safe in the workplace: A handbook for workplaces
Children working on farms
Children working on family farms
Farmsafe Australia: Keeping kids safe on farmsExternal link
Better Health Channel: Farm safety – childrenExternal link
Kidsafe Victoria: Water safetyExternal link