The industry doesn’t take a break for the festive season and it’s a time when children and young people are home for the holidays and more likely to be involved in farming activities.
Unpredictable livestock, heavy machinery and vehicles like quad bikes can make farms dangerous places, especially for children and young people.
Tragically, three children under 13 have died in workplace incidents on Victorian farms in the past three years. Three young people aged 17, 23 and 24 have also lost their lives on farms.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act all duty holders, including farmers, must take every reasonable step to ensure that workers and other people in their workplace are not exposed to risks to health and safety.
The biggest risk to children is drowning, with other potential hazards including falls from height, silos, chemicals, contact with electricity, noise and firearms.
Featuring in a video with WorkSafe to promote child safety on farms, Established Tree Transplanters Director Matt Davis said he loved the lifestyle the industry offered, but was also aware of the dangers.
“I’ve got two kids, they’re both under 10. We love growing up on the farm. What I did as a kid is very different to what we do today,” Mr Davis said.
“We don’t even have quad bikes on the site anymore. We’ve had too many accidents in the past because they are so dangerous.”
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said children got great enjoyment from farm life, but needed close supervision.
“Farms are a place where families live and play, but they are also workplaces that can come with serious death and injury risks, especially for children,” she said.
“As we head into the holidays, take a look around your farm and try to see things from a child’s point of view. Teach your children about what the hazards are and try to child-proof potentially dangerous areas.
“Importantly, lead by example. Children learn by watching others, if you model safe behaviour and value farm safety then so will they.”
Some ways to reduce risks to children on farms include:
- Make sure children always wear seatbelts when in any moving vehicle.
- Prevent children from riding on tractors, attachments and the back of utes.
- Use safety guards on all machinery
- Make sure children always wear helmets when riding any bikes or horses.
- Keep doors shut or locked and remove keys so children cannot access vehicles or unsafe areas.
- Use suitable storage systems for dangerous chemicals.
- Make sure that any bikes children ride, including motorbikes, are appropriate for their age and height and are in line with manufacturers’ specifications.
- Teach children the dangers of speeding and riding motorbikes on uneven ground.
- Make sure children know what to do in an emergency, including where to go and who to call.
- Teach children about water safety and, where possible, fence off dams, ponds, septic tanks, sheep dips, pools and creeks.