OMAHA (DTN) -- For many, raising children in a rural area is an ideal situation. There are wide-open spaces for kids to play safely, far from the many dangers of a more urban area.
For those who live on farms, however, certain dangers still exist for children. Machinery, livestock, stored grain and many other dangerous items can entice children to play in and around them, but also can be extremely dangerous.
While parents cannot completely child-proof a farm, they can make it as safe as possible. Experts say there are certain recommended safety practices to help make sure kids on farms are safe.
KEEP KIDS SAFE
Every year an estimated 300 children under the age of 19 are killed on U.S. farms, according to the National Ag Safety Database (NASD). In addition, roughly 24,000 children are seriously injured on our nation's farms (https://nasdonline.org/…).
In Iowa, at least one out of every five farm injuries happen to a child. The most common cause of these injuries includes falls and slips, animals, farm machinery and all-terrain vehicles.
Children are vulnerable to many of the same hazards as adults who work on farms, but they are less likely to understand these hazards, according to NASD.
During National Farm Safety and Health Week 2022 from Sept. 19-24, the following are some considerations and tips on how to keep children safe on the farm.
ARRANGE SUPERVISION AND CHILDCARE
Often parents who live and work on farms have issues with the supervision of young children. In the past, family members or neighbors could help watch children, but this may not be an option today.
Safety experts at NASD recommend farm families get childcare for children under the age of 8.
Farmers could hire a babysitter who could come to their house or take children to a family daycare home. Other options include setting up a babysitting exchange with a friend during busy times or even forming a babysitting cooperative with other farm families.
"The stigma, expense and trouble of arranging childcare become trivial when compared to the stress, guilt and expense when a child is injured or killed," the NASD report said.
HAVE A DESIGNATED PLAY AREA
Grinnell Mutual, an insurance company, suggested children living on farms have their own designated play area (https://www.grinnellmutual.com/…). Parents should consider building a sturdy fence to separate the farm's safe play areas from its working areas.
"Build the play area at least 50 feet from the hub of farm activity and any roadways," the Grinnell report said. "Keep it free from pests, wood or metal scrap, and open water. And choose a shady spot to help shelter children from the sun, wind and dust."
Be sure to childproof gates, barns, equipment and sheds too, the report said.
TEACH LIVESTOCK SAFETY
Children many find farm animals fascinating, but domesticated animals can be extremely dangerous. Many times, livestock can be unpredictable.
Roughly one of every five injuries on the farm are linked to livestock, according to NASD. Young children should always be supervised around livestock, even when they are outside a fence.
Children should never be allowed independent access to animals. Beginning at age 5, teach children simple rules about livestock such as how to treat the animals, where to stand and which animals to avoid.
BE AWARE OF DANGERS AROUND MACHINERY
Tractors and machinery are involved in three out of four farm injuries to children, according to NASD. Never allow a child to drive a tractor, as they don't have the skills or judgment to operate a tractor until about age 14, the report said.
Karen Funkenbusch, a University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist, said tractor rollovers and runovers are the leading cause of childhood deaths on U.S. farms (https://extension.missouri.edu/…).
Make children aware of the potential dangers and do not be afraid to correct unsafe behaviors, she said.
Funkenbusch recommends a family meeting to discuss farm safety with children and safer practices: no riders on any piece of farm machinery, and remove keys from farm equipment. Remind children to stay away from grain wagons, grain bins and manure pits.
AVOID GRAIN ENTRAPMENTS
One-third of all grain entrapments and suffocations in flowing grain involve children under the age of 14, according to NASD.
Parents should never allow children to play in grain, ride in grain wagons or get into bins or hoppers. Grain may draw children in, but once it is moving, it can act like quicksand.
Never allow children to play in areas where grain is being loaded or unloaded. Never leave an auger or wagon unattended with children present. Grain accidents happen quickly, and few adults are strong enough to rescue a child, even a small one.
RESTRICT ACCESS TO AG CHEMICALS
Another risk to children on the farm is their access to dangerous chemicals. NASD stated at least half of the U.S. deaths on U.S. farms from chemicals are children under the age of 10.
Know that children are naturally curious, can be attracted to containers and bright colors and put things in their mouths. Teach children at age 2 not to eat or drink anything unless given to them by a familiar adult -- and don't expect them to abide by these rules until age 8.
Keep all toxic substances on high shelves in a locked building that children cannot access. Discard dangerous substances properly in a way so children have no access. Post danger signs around locked chemical storage areas.
AVOID SLIPS AND FALLS
It's also important to protect children from slips and falls and keep them away from electricity.
To see a recent DTN story on safety around electricity, see https://www.dtnpf.com/….
To read a first-hand account of how a tragic farm accident affected one family, see https://www.dtnpf.com/….
To see another story on farm safety for youth, check out https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Russ Quinn can be reached at Russ.Quinn@dtn.com
Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN
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