Staying safe on the farm this summer takes planning, commitment
Spring brings new sounds and activities to the farm with the birthing seasons of many domesticated animals; lambs, calves, piglets, foals, and chickens, just to name a few.
The summer season issues its annual sights and sounds; farm kids running and playing free from the schedules and confines of the schoolyard. Growing up on the farm creates memories of lazy summer days, exploring the “back forty”, farming with grandpa, watching the farm babies grow, and dreaming of one day being a farmer.
Summer is the time for youngsters to learn and grow and adults to prepare, teach, and create safe habits and environments.
Before kids and young adults are home for the summer, conduct a “Farm Safety Audit.” Completing a Child/Youth Agricultural Safety Checklist on the farm with youth is a great way to analyze the potential dangers and hazards of the farm.
Conducting the audit with youth allows adults to discuss risks and hazards and gives youth a chance to ask questions and participate in creating a safe environment.
Educational resources and information for parents and caregivers can be found at Cultivatesafety.org and were developed by The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety (NCCRAHS) and National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC).
Having responsibilities and chores is a part of growing up on the farm. It is the responsibility of adults to ensure children are physically, emotionally, and mentally able to complete assigned tasks safely.
Understanding development in children is key to keeping children and others safe. Injuries tend to happen when tasks are beyond their developmental abilities. Children develop at different ages and stages. Chores or activities one child may be capable of performing at a certain age another child may not be able to.
Using a child development and appropriate work tasks chart as a guide can help determine developmentally appropriate work for children at different ages and stages. A chart from PennState Extension may be found at https://bit.ly/39CyztE.
Not only do children help with farm chores, but they love playing on the farm. Haylofts to explore, tires to climb on, open spaces to run, and curiosities around every corner provide farm children and their friends hours of endless wonder, physical activity, fresh air, and sunshine.
However, behind all of these chances for entertainment and recreation lurk danger and risk. Creating a “Safe Place for Play” and “Working” areas creates safe areas for kids to play and physical barriers between hazardous areas and equipment.
A designated play area can still give youngsters access to their farm environment by safely incorporating elements found around the farm. “Creating Safe Play Areas on Farms” from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety can be used as a guide and inspiration to build safe play areas.
One of the most essential elements of keeping children safe is appropriate adult supervision. Whether it is young adult children operating equipment or handling animals (when developmentally appropriate), or younger children at play, there is no substitute for adult supervision. Along with supervision, training and open communication can help youth learn new tasks to succeed.
Create a Job Safety Analysis (a written set of safe job-task steps) and use it as a training tool. The Job Safety Analysis (JSA) can then be used by the youth while completing the task, and because they are using the JSA, it can remind them to perform the job correctly and safely while building safety habits. Example JSA may be found at https://bit.ly/39CyztE.
This summer, conduct safety audits, build safe places to play, and create task lists with safety in mind. Living, working, and playing on the farm should be fun and safe, but it takes planning, commitment, and time to build safe habits. Make this summer safe!
Carolyn Ihde is an agriculture educator for Crawford & Richland Counties, UW Madison - Division of Extension