"It is important to discuss water safety with your children, children's friends and neighbours so that everyone is clear on the safety rules," says Raelyn Peterson, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. "Likewise, be familiar with neighbouring farm's rules before letting your children swim."
She suggests setting rules for swimming and follow through with enforcing them. She says that those rules should include:
- getting permission from an adult along with constant supervision
- swimming with a buddy
- wearing a properly fitted life jacket and learning how to fit a life jacket
- swimming in the daylight and when the weather is sunny, calm and warm
- swimming in a designated swimming area picked by the parents
Another way to keep children safe is to ensure water sources are fenced off and have clear and visible signs.
"Show and explain to youth what the signs mean," she adds. "Have the children repeat back in their own words what the sign means and what they should do if they see a sign like this."
Peterson says to explain the dangers of water sources, including:
- Swift undercurrents of canals can knock you off your feet and carry you away. Canals can have very steep and slippery sides which makes climbing out difficult.
- Dugouts have soft earth around the edges leading to steep sides which make it easy to slip and fall in. The steep edges are slippery and also difficult to get out.
Peterson cannot stress enough that supervision must be constant to be effective.
She suggests some activities that the family can do together to promote water safety, including how to demonstrate that falling into water fully clothed results in heavy clothing.
"Demonstrate this by allowing your child to pick up a basket of wet laundry and have them compare that to a basket of dry laundry. Tell them to imagine trying to swim with wet heavy clothes."
Make a heaving jug to install near every water source on the farm. Use an empty 4 litre water or milk jug with lid, 4 to 6 metres (15 to 20 ft) of rope and 3 cups of water. Put the 3 cups of water in the plastic jug and tighten the lid. It gives the jug some weight to throw further. Securely tie the rope to the handle of the jug.
"Then, position a stuffed toy or hula hoop as a target,” she says. “This will represent a person in need. Practice throwing the jug to the person in need. Try to avoid hitting the person or throwing the jug too far away for them to grab. After each attempt, pull the rope slowly but firmly to simulate pulling someone to safety."
She adds that swimming can be a lot of fun and a great family activity. "With a good set of safety rules in place, supervision and positive role modeling, it can create memories that last a life time."
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