With primary schools having finished up for the summer, most children are now back home on the farm and on holidays for the next two months. It should be, and it is, a time of fun and relaxation for kids and their parents.

However, with kids around the farm all day, some thought must be given to safety. Given longer daylight hours and hopefully better weather, children will be outside longer. At the same time, it is a busy time on most farms and it’s easy for work to take priority over everything else, including safety.

Teagasc advisers Claire Mooney and Michael Somers, both based in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, have dealt with the issue of family safety on the farm. This is in addition to their day-to-day roles as drystock and forestry advisers respectively. The two advisers co-ordinated a successful event on a working farm in Borrisokane last April promoting family safety.

Tragically, children have accounted for 11% of all farm fatalities in the past decade – that’s two or three children killed each year on farms, says Michael.

“The farmyard is a workplace, but it’s the family home, too.”

Advance planning is the best way to counter dangers and risk. It’s a good idea for parents to set aside some time to think and talk about dangers and risks around the farm and how best to minimise them for the children. Parents know the farm, the farmyard, and their kids, best of all.

When parents get into a safety frame of mind children will tend to adopt that attitude too as they get older and become more independent.

Parents must set ground rules, Claire says. “The farmyard is not a play area. Smaller children should never be allowed into the farmyard unless supervised. For children of national school age, parents should try to make a safe play area. Install a fence to keep children in where they are safe. It should be made in view of the house to allow supervision.

A safe play area for is a good idea for young kids. It can be fenced off and equipped with favourite toys. An ideal location would be in view of the house where adults are.

“Teach children about how to be safe,” she says. “Set rules. They should stay off tractors and never go near working machinery. They must stay away from livestock and never go near slurry pits or dungsteads. No climbing on bales.”

“There must be rules for adults, too, to ensure child safety,” she says. “Remove keys from tractors and other vehicles when not in use and lock them. Put on the handbrake. Make sure front loaders are lowered to the ground. Remember that children under seven years are not allowed in tractors at all. Don’t lean heavy items standing against walls, for example gates or pallets.”

“Parents might have made their own children aware of the dangers on the farm but they need to be extra careful when other children visit,” Michael says.

“These could be cousins or school friends. These children may not be from farms and may not have any understanding of the dangers.”

If such children come to visit, you should let their parents know that there will be ground rules on safety that all the children will have to obey. When it comes to holding a birthday party with, say 12 other kids invited, a lot of care is needed. Plan that for a day when there’s no work being done on the farm. If necessary have the party away from home.”

Big interest in family event

There is an appetite among farming parents for information and advice on safety for children.

Teagasc advisers Claire Mooney and Michael Somers found this out when they co-ordinated an event in April to promote family safety on farms. Seven hundred people attended on the farm of Padraig Moran, Coorevin, Borrisokane, 200 of them children and the rest adults. The event was organised with North Tipperary IFA and Gurteen Agricultural College.

“It was aimed at showing farm families how to make the family farm a safer place,” says Claire.

“We were surprised at how big the attendance was. It was probably the biggest response we ever had to a local event. It was held during the mid-term break on a weekday.

“We did a prototype event the previous year and 100 came. Based on that, we made changes for this year’s event.”

The event was KT approved but only 70 of the attendance were there for that purpose.