Coronavirus: School closures prompt farm safety reminder

Farmers are being asked to remain vigilant on workplace safety if their children are at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The children of farmers, farmworkers and vets have been classed as key workers, which means many will still be attending school.

However, other parents will have chosen to keep their children at home over concerns about spreading the virus further or bringing it on to the farm.

See also: Safety campaign: ‘Working farm no place for children’

With more children now at home, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reminded farmers that most children who are killed in farm incidents are family members.

The key points, released in a special bulletin for farmers, are:

  • Children should not be allowed in the farm workplace, and for young children they should enjoy outdoor space in a secure, fenced area
  • Any access to the work area by children under 16, for example for education, or work experience, should be planned and fully supervised by an adult not engaged in any work activity
  • Children under the age of 13 years are specifically prohibited from driving or riding on any agricultural machine

The NFU has reminded farmers that children employed on a farm must have a permit from the local authority.

And that everyone in a farm workplace has a responsibility to protect, and every employer is required by law to manage any risks.

Create boundaries

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said juggling childcare was now another pressure for some farmers already working flat out to help keep supermarket shelves stocked.

He urged farmers to put in place whatever measures they could to keep children away from the workplace.

“I know this is not always possible, but as more children are going to be at home for the foreseeable future, boundaries are crucial in helping to protect them during this time.

“We must remember that farms are first and foremost a working environment.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) also urged parents to remain vigilant.

Agriculture has one of the highest fatal accident rates of any industry in Northern Ireland.

UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt said: “Children view farms as one big play area and fail to understand the consequences that go hand in hand with playing around machinery, equipment and livestock.

“It is vital that every farmer and farming family take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their family.”

Safety guides

The Farm Safety Foundation has written two new guides which could be useful for farmers who are keeping children away from school because of coronavirus.

The guides have been sent to all rural primary schools, land-based colleges, universities and national young farmers’ clubs to be shared with their pupils, students and members.

HSE has a range of resources and guides published to help those working on the farm, including keeping children safe.