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Agricultural businesses should be extra vigilant whilst schools are closed

As part of the delay phase of the governments Coronavirus action plan, schools across the UK were closed on the 20th March for a minimum of three weeks. Where children would otherwise be at school, many parents have been left with the responsibility of looking after them whilst carrying on with their day job.

For most professions like those who can carry out office work from home, this is little more than an inconvenience. Keeping children away from dangers at work is not a problem in most professions, but for those who live on farms and have children this is not the case. This is why now is a good time to remind you to be more aware of children on your farms and of your responsibilities.

Farms are homes as well as workplaces, so it is devastating that children under the age of 18 are regularly killed and injured on farms because they are either working or playing. Agriculture businesses and farms have one of the highest fatal injury rates of any industry in the UK1 and it is the only high-risk industry that regularly has children present at the time of this work.

How are children injured on farms?

The HSE warns that agriculture's fatal accident rate is up to 18 times higher than the UK’s average in other industries. Farming is already a dangerous profession; make sure you take measures to reduce the risk of injury and illness while working on your farm, (and have appropriate farm insurance), whilst still being able to maintain production.

Over the past 10 years, sadly 11 children under the age of 13 have been killed in farm workplace incidents2. Most of these accidents involved farm vehicles including fatalities in and around the farm yard1.

The common causes of children being majorly injured and killed each year are:

  • falling from vehicles;
  • being struck by moving vehicles or objects;
  • contact with machinery;
  • driving vehicles;
  • falls from height;
  • drowning and asphyxiation;
  • poisoning;
  • fire;
  • contact with animals. 

The children who were killed had been:

  • being carried as passengers on agricultural plant and machinery;
  • not under proper adult supervision;
  • working/helping around the farm;
  • playing unsupervised; or trespassing.

When is it ok for children to be present during farm work?

It is crucial to remember that it is illegal for a child under the age of 13 to ride on or drive an agricultural machine or piece of equipment. This may be difficult to follow especially when your children are usually at school at this time, they cannot be left alone and you have important work that needs doing. However, the HSE guidance covers many real life examples of why this is a terrible idea.

he safest practice is to keep children away from all farm duties when possible, but it can be acceptable for children to watch farm activities when1:

  • The task itself is not inherently dangerous
  • The person doing the task is not the same as the person supervising the child
  • The child is kept in a safe place

Keeping children safe on your farm

The major injury and death of children on farms statistics speak for themselves, so it is incredibly important that you follow the Farm Safety Checklist to protect children published by the HSE1:

Safety first

At times like these, it is paramount that you carry out your duty of care for those around your agricultural business or farm. It can be unthinkable to lose a child or have them injured, so to minimise the risk of this happening, ensure you keep up to date with HSE best practice and to understand how you can mitigate your risks.

Safety is crucial for everyone working on your farm. Create a culture of safety first and get everyone involved in creating and maintaining a safe working environment on your farm.

1. hse.gov.uk/indg472
2. fwi.co.uk/child-safety-on-farm-campaign-launches-to-reduce-accidents
3. marshcommercial.co.uk/staying-safe-on-your-farm