My friends and I often joke about how lax our own parents were when it came to our safety growing up in the 80s and 90s. I had a wonderful childhood, but I also would never – in a million years – let my kids do some of the things I used to do. Traipse around bear and moose-infested forests with just your dog for company? No. Hike along the slippery rocks of a roaring river with just your best friend at age 10? Never. I remember we had a big pile of lime on the edge of one of our fields and I was mad to make a mud pie with it. My dad told me never to touch it. So I just used a really long stick and some water to mix it up! I technically never touched it, but it wasn’t my brightest idea.

We are now in the thick of Farm Safety Week here in Ireland. For any farmers and farm residents who are also parents of young children, though, I would wager that farm safety is something you think about every day. Minister of State with special responsibility for farm safety, Martin Heydon TD, said that farm safety is something which needs to be incorporated into every aspect of our every-day lives. I wholeheartedly agree. However, in my experience, the (thankfully minor) farming incidents I have encountered always occurred in unexpected or unique circumstances. Aside from being farm safety aware, we also have to try and expect the unexpected - no easy task.

Earlier this spring, my husband and I were away overnight. The hot water in the milking parlour reached boiling point, unbeknownst to me.

The following evening, when I was cleaning out our calf feeders, the water burst out of the hose – almost like a geyser – and sprayed all over my front; badly scalding my leg. There is still a straight line scarred across my upper calf, where my wellies trapped in some of the boiling hot water, and I’m not sure it will ever fade. That said, I’m very lucky as it could have been much worse. My kids are often present when I am cleaning up after feeding the calves – in this instance, my parents were visiting from Canada and they were inside with them.

The worry will never go away, but it is the price I pay for all of the wonderful aspects of farm life.

I am constantly worried – as I am sure many parents and carers are – that I haven’t educated my children enough about farm safety. There is the balance of ensuring they aren’t terrified, but are wary enough to take precautions. I don’t just worry about my kids – I worry when my husband is out for hours on his own. I worry when my father-in-law goes off in the jeep. I worry when we have outside workers in to help. I worry when my nieces and nephews are visiting. The worry will never go away, but it is the price I pay for all of the wonderful aspects of farm life. We are lucky in so many ways to be farming. It can’t be 100% perfect all the time – there will always be a few scars. Hopefully, we have the right systems in place to minimise the risk of accidents and stay safe and healthy.

Farm Safety Week is a good annual reminder to review those systems with your partners, parents, siblings and children. Discuss where danger points are on the farm. Ask your kids why these places are dangerous. Talk about corrosives and poisons. Talk about slurry. Talk about bulls, cows who have just given birth and how even the most even-tempered animal can cause injury. Talk about tractors, ATVs and other farm vehicles. Have protocol in place if, God forbid, something does happen. Keep your first aid kits well-stocked, have emergency contacts visible and train older children to use your phone, if they don’t have one themselves and there is no landline.

If you’re having trouble communicating the seriousness of farm safety with your kids without scaring them, has some fun learning resources. Let’s make this year a great year for farm safety.

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