Summer on the Farm: Balancing Play and Safety - Practical Tips

22 December 2023

With the arrival of the festive season and summer school holidays, we must remember the safety of children on farms.

Farms are homes and they offer unique opportunities for learning and play for the next generation. However we must also acknowledge that they are workplaces and like any workplace there are many hazards to be considered.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania highlights the grim reality: agricultural settings remain highly dangerous settings with 10-20 young lives lost on Australian farms annually and many more require medical attention or hospitalisation.

The most common hazards are things we take for granted, yet they pose the highest and most significant risk such as dams, quad bikes, livestock and machinery.

Felicity Richards, Farm Safe Chair, emphasises the critical aspect of water safety on farms, citing that water bodies present the greatest risk to children aged 0-4. The spectrum of risks includes irrigation channels, dams, ponds, rivers and water tanks, especially heightened after heavy rainfall.

Even things like ditches, land depressions, or unfilled postholes can heighten the risk of young children drowning.

While fencing every potential hazard isn't feasible, Royal Life Saving Australia suggests creating child-safe play areas near homes. Safe play spaces act as a barrier between children and water hazards. It's vital to stress that direct supervision and education remain irreplaceable in preventing farm accidents.

Beyond drowning, farm vehicles such as quad bikes, motorbikes and tractors pose the second most significant threat to children. To mitigate these risks, clear rules should be followed: children under 16 should never ride quad bikes, and they should only use motorcycles appropriate for their age and size. Additionally, limiting a child's bike throttle to a controlled speed, ensuring they wear personal protective equipment and never allowing children as passengers on quad bikes are crucial safety measures.

Regarding tractors, similar safety measures to those in cars are vital, children should be properly restrained within cabs, taught to stay clear of tractors when they are on foot and never allowed to ride in the tray of utes.

Implementing these precautions and safety measures significantly reduces the risk of accidents, including tragic incidents like children being run over or vehicle turnovers. Keeping children safe around tractors and farm machinery should always be paramount.

Additionally farm chemicals, fuel and lubricants should be stored correctly and inaccessible to young children.

While farm safety is a year-round concern, the summer holiday season serves as a timely reminder to prioritise our children’s ' safety Wishing you a safe and Merry Christmas.

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