By Brenda Stefanson, PAg Agriculture Program Specialist, Watrous
Farm families have always worked together to build successful farm operations. On many farms, the human resource plan assigns much of the labour and management tasks to family members, young and old. Today’s young farm operators learned their production and management knowledge as they worked side-by-side with parents and grandparents. Now, they will pass these skills on to another generation of farm kids.
Family farm life provides a stimulating learning environment for children of all ages. The knowledge and the work ethic they develop while helping on the family farm will serve them well in their future careers. However, the farm is also a workplace in which numerous health and safety hazards exist. Here’s some practical and common sense advice for busy farm families to ensure the safety, health and well being of their children and teenagers.
There are numerous hazards on a farm, including machinery, chemicals, unpredictable livestock, enclosed spaces (grain storage, etc.) and electricity. An important step to preventing tragedy is to make a list of all the things that could seriously harm a younger child. Develop fenced-off safe play areas to keep toddlers and younger children away from workplace hazards. As children grow older and increasingly participate in farm activities, continue to work with them to assess the hazards and ensure that older children are appropriately trained.
Base expectations on both age and maturity
Children grow and mature at different rates. Young adults tend to overestimate their skill and knowledge levels when asked if they can perform a task. Parents are the best judge of when a young adult has the maturity to take on farm chores that are hazardous. Initial training and supervision is important to ensure your child can do the chore safely.
Emphasize safety and model safe behaviour
Consider your own behaviour in busy and difficult times. Do you take shortcuts that compromise safety? Children will learn your habits--both good and bad. Keep them safe as they learn about farm work through the consistent demonstration of your own good habits and safe work practices.
Develop and enforce a safe environment
Set up appropriate rules for your children to follow and monitor them consistently. Utilize the many government and community agencies that focus on farm safety to learn more about protecting your loved ones on the family farm.
The Agriculture Health and Safety Network, the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and the Ministry of Agriculture can provide you with information and resources to help you keep your family and employees safe as they work and play this summer. As we look forward to a busy and productive growing season and our children enjoy their summer vacation, keep safety in mind.
For more information, please contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.