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Published April 25, 2010, 12:00 AM

Farm safety: What can my children do?

Many accidents to children on the farm occur when a child is doing something that is beyond his or her mental, physical, or emotional ability.

By: Todd County Public Health, The Osakis Review

Many accidents to children on the farm occur when a child is doing something that is beyond his or her mental, physical, or emotional ability. Child safety is the responsibility of the adult providing care.

Accidents kill more children than disease, kidnapping, and drugs combined. Each year, an estimated 300 people under age 19 die and approximately 24,000 are seriously hurt on our nations’ farms. That is 65 each day. The rate of death is higher in agriculture than in mining, construction, or timber industry. The most common causes of these injuries are from slips and falls, animals, farm machinery, and all-terrain vehicles.

Tractors are involved in three out of four farm injuries to children. Tractor overturns are the leading cause of death on the farm. Livestock are link to one in every five farm injuries. One third of all entrapment/suffocation in flowing grain involves children under 14 years old. At least half of all deaths from pesticides are to children under age 10 years.

Major farm hazards include machinery, equipment, chemicals, animals, extreme temperatures, dust, electricity, hand tools, highway traffic, lifting, mud, noise, standing water, manure pits, wells, grain bins, silos, buildings slips, trips, and falls.

Child development experts identify that children do not have the skills or judgment to operate a tractor until about age 14 years. Children should be supervised when around any animals until they are 8 years old. Any rule can be repeatedly told to a child, but adults should not expect the rule followed until the child is at least 8 years old. Children should not operate lawn and garden equipment until at least age 10 years. They should stay on a flat surface and should have supervision. Once 13 years old a child should have 10 hours of training before operating simple farm equipment with supervision. They should be capable of feeding animals. By age 16 years a child should be capable of operating complex farm equipment with proper training. An adult should be available.

All children develop and mature at a different pace. The ages indicated here are the youngest age a child will be ready to perform these tasks. For optimum safety a child must have mastery of all small and large muscle groups, abstract and logical thinking, and stable emotions, must be able to feel pride, responsibility, and guilt, have adequate size to do the assigned task, and be willing to take instruction and supervision from an adult.

The risk for illness, injury, and death from farm accidents/incidents can be reduced by making buildings and equipment safe. Use the safety attachments on equipment. Stay out of silos and grain bins. Adults must set a good example by practicing safety and expecting everyone they work with to also be safe. Wash hands often. Be calm around animals. Do not allow passengers on any vehicles, equipment, or trailers. This includes ATV’s. Keep children off of all machinery. Store all chemicals safely and in their own container. Know the product you are working with. Be aware of poisonous gases. Read and follow the manufacture’s instructions. Know where your children are. Keep work areas off limits to children. Create a safe area for children to play. Inspect equipment routinely. Be on the look out for unsafe dangers, items, or situations. Immediately fix or remove anything that is unsafe. Remember to repeatedly educate and continuously supervise those you are working with, especially children. Know first aid and have an emergency plan.