Child Safety Around the Farm

  • It is a tragic fact that each year children are injured or killed in farm place accidents.  

    Christmas will never be the same again. In this powerful video, the Higgins family and their friends recount the devastating loss of James, the most adorable, beautiful little child that you could imagine. His dad, Pádraig, urges us to be vigilant at all times and to remember that a farmyard is not a playground.

    Take action now to help keep children safe around the farm
    Supervise children:
    • Children love to explore and are naturally curious. The working farm is a very tempting place for them. Expect the unexpected with children and always remember the importance of supervision as children do not understand danger. Be very vigilant also of children visiting the farm.
    • Never allow a child onto a farmyard unless directly supervised by an adult.
    • Remember it is not possible to supervise your child safely and work on the farm at the same time.
    • Contractors should always be made aware of the presence of children.
    • Talk to children about safety on the farm – tell them about the dangers and set the rules.
    Safety on the FarmSupervised safe play area for your child
    • Provide a safe and secure fenced off play area for children in view of the house and ensure they are always supervised.
    • Fencing and gates should have mesh right down to the ground so that children cannot slip through gates/fences or climb over . 
    Keep children out of work areas:
    • Put up warning signs in dangerous areas and explain to children what they mean.
    • Do a Risk Assessment to find any risks to child safety around the farmyard and buildings.
    Keep children away from machinery and tractors:  
    • Set clear ground rules and don't give children the habit of "getting spins" on tractors and other farm machinery.
    • But remember children are children and do not understand danger. Teaching them about dangers and setting ground rules are important but never expect a child to take on the responsibility of keeping themselves safe.
    • Keep children well away from tractors and machinery that are in use.
    • Lock unattended vehicles.
    • Always remove keys and leave controls in neutral and apply the handbrake.
    • Lower any loaders to the ground.
    • Keep vehicle keys, and house keys, out of sight and reach of children - children have been known to get into a vehicle, or leave a home, without any adult noticing.
    • Guard all moving parts of machinery.
    • The Code of Practice on Preventing Accidents to Children and Young Persons in Agriculture sets out the following in relation to riding on tractors and machinery:
      • Children under the age of 14 should be prohibited from riding on agricultural machines including agricultural trailers with the following exception –
        • If a risk assessment shows it to be safe, children between the ages of 7 and 16 may ride on a tractor provided the tractor is fitted with a properly designed and fitted passenger seat (with seat belts) inside a safety cab or frame.
        • If carried in the cab children must be given strict rules to follow such as keeping seat belt on at all time, not distracting the driver, not to leave the cab without permission, not to touch or interfere with controls, etc.
        • Children under the age of 7 must not be present inside the cab of a tractor or machinery which is in use whether an instructor/passenger seat is provided or not.
    Keep children at a safe distance from livestock:
    • Remember animals guarding their young could be more aggressive and unpredictable than usual.
    • Fit correct fencing and gates.
    • Supervise children when they are feeding or close to any animal.
    • Teach children to always wash their hands after being with animals and pets.
    Keep poisons away from children:
    • Keep all pesticides, cleaning fluids, veterinary medicines and equipment in their original containers and in a securely locked store. 
    • Children under 16 years should never handle chemicals.
    • Teach children:
      • not to eat wild mushrooms or berries without first checking with an adult.
      • not to pick ragwort.
      • not to touch hogweed (often found near rivers and lakes) as it can cause nasty skin irritation.
    Prevent falls:
    • Stop access to danger areas at heights.
    • Stop access to enclosed pens.
    • Store ladders flat on the ground or on wall brackets to stop children from climbing on them.
    • Many serious, even fatal, injuries happen after a fall from a height or after a person has been hit by falling or moving objects, such as gates, building materials, bales. Help prevent these injuries:
      • Keep all buildings, walls and fences in a good and safe condition
      • Secure gates and doors - heavy swinging gates or doors are very dangerous, especially in high winds
      • Fit sliding doors where possible
      • Store all items in a secure and proper manner
      • Discourage children from using bales of any description for playing - it is very easy for children to fall from stacked bales, resulting in serious injury.  There is also a suffocation risk if they fall between bales. 
    Prevent drowning:
    • Supervise children near water.
    • Remember there is an added risk of drowning when a child is wearing a nappy - the nappy will quickly fill with water and take a child under.
    • Securely cover or fence all slurry facilities, wells, tanks and lagoons.  This will help to stop access to areas where there is a risk of drowning or suffocation.
    • Always tell children in your care that to stay S.A.F.E means to Stay Away From Edges.  And remember that reeds and grasses often hide the edge of waterways.  
    • Read the water safety on the farm leaflet or view the short video on Farm Water Safety - both from Irish Water Safety.
    Hand washing:
    • To lessen the chance of sickness spreading from animals to people, wash hands with soap and warm water:
      • When hands look dirty
      • After handling raw meat
      • Before and after preparing, serving or eating food
      • Before and after dealing with sick people
      • Before and after changing the baby’s nappy
      • Before and after treating a cut or a wound
      • After going to the toilet or bringing someone to the toilet
      • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
      • After handling rubbish or bins
      • After handling an animal or animal litter/droppings
    • Teach children how and when to wash their hands.
    • Keep sick animals away from children.
    • Know how to reduce the risk of illness passing from animals to humans.
    • Keep play areas free from cat or dog droppings.
    Stay safe in the sun – children and adults:
    • Remember – children under the age of 6 months should stay in the shade.
    • Older children and adults should follow the Sun Safe Code:
      • Cover up - wear a shirt with a collar and wear long shorts or trousers.  Wear a hat that gives shade to the face, neck and ears
      • Look for shade - especially from 11am to 3pm
      • Wear wraparound sunglasses - make sure that they give UV protection
      • Slap on sunscreen  - use sunscreen with UVA protection and the right Sun Protection Factor (SPF) - SPF 30 (or higher for children) and SPF 15 or higher (for adults)
    Find out more:

    Information courtesy of Teagasc, Health and Safety Authority, Irish Farmers' Association, Irish Cancer Society and HSE

    Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:

    Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
    Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger

    Go to: