“When it comes to spring farm work, there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time,” says Raelyn Peterson, farm safety youth coordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Rainy days and a ticking input clock create a sense of urgency among farmers. It’s often during these busy times that priorities shift and safety can be compromised.”

With the farm acting as a home and worksite for most families, it’s important to prepare for the busy season. Information from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety shows that new and young workers have a higher rate of injury on the job. Use these farm safety tips to help keep young workers and children living on the farm safe this spring.

Proper training and supervision

“If you manage a workforce that involves youth, whether the workers are your children or not, it’s up to you to ensure that everyone has the knowledge and skills to prevent injuries on the job,” she explains. “Always take the time to first go through the activity of training the youth, even if it feels repetitive or redundant. This will ensure they learn and practice the safest way to do the job.”

Peterson offers some tips to help train young workers effectively:

  • explain techniques that will make a task easier
  • provide comprehensive training for complex tasks such as equipment operation
  • specify dos and don’ts of safe equipment operation
  • ensure appropriate warning decals are in place and understood by all workers
  • identify hazards and show how to eliminate or control them
  • once training is complete, monitor job performance to ensure your workers fully understand the job and are following all safety precautions
  • provide information about equipment maintenance requirements and records
  • provide proper and adequate supervision where needed

Safe play areas

For farms where very young children live, Peterson recommends building a safe play area so children can play outside without the risk of being injured by spring activities.

“A safe play area is a carefully planned, designated location for children with limited exposure to hazards such as traffic, agricultural production equipment and environmental concerns. By designating a ‘hazard-free’ play area, you remove children from the busy fast-paced work environment while allowing them to develop a sense of their own place of belonging on the farm.”

The safe play area should:

  • be designated and reinforced by boundaries or physical barriers such as fences, gates or shrubs
  • have competent supervision and always be within sight and sound of a responsible adult
  • have safety rules for all children, including additional explanations for visitors or friends
  • be away from vehicle traffic and other hazards such as machinery or unstable structures
  • be free from loud noises
  • be free from open water and drowning hazards such as ponds, dugouts or ditches
  • have adequate shade from the sun
  • provide adequate shelter from the wind, dust or hazardous airborne particles
  • be protected with a strong barrier separating children from farm animals
  • have first aid, hand washing and toilet facilities nearby
  • be easily and regularly maintained - mow grass, remove poisonous plants, sharp rocks, insect nests, etc.
  • provide enough space to run and explore
  • contain safe and age-appropriate play equipment such as a sandbox, swings, and playhouse

Child care

Peterson urges parents to plan ahead for child care.

“If you know you’re going to be ramping up for another hectic week of work, find someone - a baby-sitter, a relative, or a rural day care service - to care for your children. This will ensure they are properly supervised and are not involved in the fast-paced work environment.”

“Spring is full of excitement and activity, and when you’re in a rush it’s tempting to bypass simple safety procedures that might slow you down. Taking the extra time to properly train young workers and to create safe play areas for young children can be a lifesaver.”

Find more information on the Alberta Farm Safety Program webpage.

Contact

To connect with the Alberta Farm Safety Program:

Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)
Email: farm.safety@gov.ab.ca