“A good place to start when thinking about child safety on a farm is to consider what children are on the farm and how they interact with the farm,” says Raelyn Peterson, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Are they my grandkids, children, friends of my children, farm workers with children, visitors or a combination of these?”
Consider that the biggest risks on the farm for children are machinery, animals and water.
With these factors in mind, Peterson suggests starting with a safety audit that involves your children.
“Look around your farm for these risks so you can have conversations with your children. Take them with you for a walk. Talk about why chemicals are stored where they are. Talk about where the helmets are kept. Develop rules around the risks you have identified and explain those rules. Determine your non-negotiables and communicate them. Are they allowed to ride the ATV? Are they allowed to ride without a helmet?”
She says to express the rules of your farm to everyone - including neighbours, visitors, and your own children - especially around the most hazardous areas.
“Youth, especially in the tween and early teen years, can be hurt doing work that is not appropriate for their age or ability.”
Peterson says to take some time to think about the work your child is doing. Being honest with yourself, determine if their task is appropriate for their age and ability.
Make rules for youth to follow, such as not working alone. Ensure youth are given the time and attention that they need to properly learn how to complete the task at hand.
Children under 4
Supervision is key for this age group, and Peterson says that it needs to be constant to be effective.
“Young children are curious and their love to explore can be fatal on a farm. Creating a safe play area around the house or area where you can actively supervise is one system that many parents use on their farms.”
Peterson adds that as a community, farm safety is a topic that needs to be addressed.
“Some fear this topic could turn into a parenting conversation, but it needs to be about safety. Be open to talking with neighbours and friends about farm rules. Working together makes it easier to create a culture of farm safety and how to make safe choices. Children imitate adult behaviour - including positive adult behaviour - so be the leader and show them how to be safe on the farm.”
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