How to keep children safe on farms this summer

Farms can be dangerous places for children.
Farms can be dangerous places for children. Photo credit: Getty

With summer finally here, farms across the country are gearing up for an influx of visitors, as relatives and friends drop round to enjoy the sunshine and the holiday season.

But with more people on farm - especially children - come more risks.

The lead-up to Christmas and the holiday season can also be particularly busy, bringing dangers of its own to farmers rushing to get their ducks in a row on time.

Newshub spoke to Tony Watson from Safer Farms to get some tips to ensure Christmas on farm is memorable for the right reasons.

Here's some of his advice.

Slow down and plan ahead

Without a doubt summer is a hugely busy time on farms across the country. There's always a million things to do and strict time frames for when they need to be done by.

Whether it be the demands of harvest or a race against incoming weather events, "we're driven by external deadlines [which] can put additional pressure on things", says Watson.

"And of course there's another big deadline every year on the 25th of December - people like to get themselves organised for that."

Despite the never-ending to-do list, Watson says it's vitally important to keep some perspective when things get hectic.

"We're really keen that people focus and make it a Christmas to remember for the right reasons. And the right reasons are when everyone's having fun and enjoying each other's company and not dealing with an injury or worse."

The best way to stay in control is to plan ahead.

Although thinking ahead is "not that sexy", admits Watson, it can make a big difference to staying safe.

He says in a majority of injuries on farm - and most likely in fatalities too - fatigue and multitasking are factors.

"If we can do some planning and get ahead of the game and get a bit organised we can prevent those two things from happening."

Disorganisation can lead to farmers working more hours than necessary, which results in fatigue and consequently puts people at a higher risk of making poor decisions.

"It's the same with multitasking," says Watson. 

Having your mind on too many things at once might mean you end up forgetting some tools you need at one end of the farm, forcing you to zoom back to the other end to get it. The result: you're constantly rushing and on the back foot - something Watson says is a recipe for disaster.

"Whereas with a bit of planning you might save yourself a trip and effectively buy yourself a bit more time. 

"It's easier said than done obviously but it simply does boil down to some basic principles around being well planned and organised."

Treat yourself like an athlete

How to keep children safe on farms this summer
Photo credit: Getty

The better rested, fed and hydrated you are, the more energy you'll have and the more likely you are to make better decisions, says Watson.

"Make sure you don't get too hungry because then the mind can play tricks and if the blood sugar is too low you can easily get distracted where otherwise you might be a bit more alert," he says.

"Treat yourself like an athlete - because farming's a pretty busy job, particularly over summer. You see athletes fuelling themselves and hydrating themselves and making sure they have good rest so they can perform at their peak."

Keep kids safe on farm

Having kids on farm is not only enjoyable for them, but is also important for the future of the sector, says Watson.

But it's vital to remember farms are full of hazards and we must take all necessary precautions to protect those curious young ones.

Young children should never be allowed out of your sight on farm, says Watson.

"They need to be supervised, and really supervised by someone who's not actually doing work."

For children who are a little older, they can take more responsibility but still need it spelt out to them in no uncertain terms what they can and can't do by themselves.

"Whether they live on a farm or they're visitors it's really important that they are clear about things like no-go areas.

"Kids are really good at learning when we take them and show them and have a chat about stuff so it's really good to engage with them and just ask them what they think could go wrong or how they would prevent things from going wrong."

Watson also said there were a number of practical steps parents can take when it comes to vehicles, such as playing it safe and not taking young children on quad bikes or on the back of the ute.

"We've seen instances in the last couple of years where that's ended badly."

He also advised against leaving keys in the ignition of vehicles on farm.

"There's nothing more that's asking for a bit of trouble than if a kid hops in the vehicle and sees the key in the ignition," says Watson.

"The next thing you know it can unwind pretty quickly really."

With mirrors on farm machinery not up to the same standard as those of on-road vehicles, Watson also said it was best practice to teach children to assume at all times they can't be seen by drivers.

"Adults should drum into kids that any time there's vehicles around to just assume that you can't be seen, unless someone is waving you over just imagine that they can't see you - because that will hopefully set them up to keep them well away from the vehicle as a general concept."

A final tip for keeping children safe was to store any chemicals out of reach.

"Kids are curious little creatures and chemicals are often in brightly labelled bottles and quite exciting but it's really key to keep them locked away," he says.

There's no such thing as an accident

How to keep children safe on farms this summer
Photo credit: Getty

One final thought Watson had on safety was the word accident, which he believed was misleading.

"Accident lets us off the hook.

"When you talk to people who have been injured we mostly find out that it's preventable mistakes that have been made... so it's quite good if we can focus on the things that could go wrong, or prevention, rather than [say] 'it was just an accident' because it almost lets us go 'we'll we were just a bit unlucky'.

"But if we can take the approach that stuff is preventable - whether it's kids or machinery or fatigue, or anything - they're all preventable. Nothing's really an accident if we allow ourselves to look at it that way."