Farm fatalities prompt child safety warning

Farmers and their families must be more aware of the dangers for children during harvest, say heath and safety experts.

School summer holidays brought even greater opportunities for youngsters to come into danger on farms, said the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

Agricultural machinery is a source of curiosity for children and tends to draw them towards eventful work areas, said the world’s largest professional health and safety organisation.

Youngsters could be hard to see, putting them in serious danger of being struck by moving vehicles – especially during busy times, such as silaging, grain harvesting and slurry spreading.

The warning follows a spate of farm fatalities this summer – some of them involving children. Last month, a 10-year-old boy died in Northern Ireland after falling from a farm vehicle.

IOSH senior policy and technical adviser Phil Bates said: “In the last 10 years, 43 children and young people have died needlessly on farms.

“Every death in a workplace is a tragedy, but this can be particularly hard when it’s a child and a member of the family on their home farm.

“The summer is an exceptionally significant period to think about the hazards that farming holds for our younger generation.

“It’s no fluke that school holidays occur at the same time as hectic periods on farms.

“The school calendar was designed around the agricultural rota so farmers’ offspring could help with the harvest.”

Mr Bates added: “Although farmworkers might be familiar about the risks posed to them, they might not have thought that the threats could be different for children.

For example if a propped up gate, tractor wheel or other such piece of equipment was knocked and fell on an adult it might cause a minor injury, but to a young person it might be fatal.

“It’s worth looking around your farm with a child’s view of the world.”

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