As dairy managers, we take great care to protect our young calves and heifers from the inherent risks posed by the daily operation of our businesses. We need to remember to do the same for young children.
Farm kids may be tough, but they're also accident prone. Each year, approximately 24,000 (65 every day) are seriously hurt on our nation's farms. The most common causes of injuries to farm kids come from slips and falls, animals, farm machinery and all-terrain vehicles.
Children are exposed to the same farm hazards as adults, but they are far less capable of understanding the danger. While parents can't completely childproof a farm, here are some ways to help keep your children out of harm's way.
Tractors and machinery - Never let a young child drive a tractor. They're not developed enough until about age 14. Post "no rider" decals on tractors and don't allow passengers. Remove keys when not in use. Secure master shields on PTOs and augers. Always know where children are when backing up, and double-check blind spots. Helmets and roll-bars are essential for ATV safety. Never let a child drive or ride an adult-size ATV.
Livestock - Always supervise children under age eight around livestock, even when outside a fence. Hard shoes are needed. Beginning about age five, teach kids that females with new offspring are dangerous to approach. The same goes for intact males such as bulls or stallions. Even when feeding animals, teach children to plan an escape route.
Grain bins and augers - Never allow children to play in grain, ride in grain wagons or get into bins or hoppers. Grain may look like fun to kids, but it acts like quicksand. One-third of all entrapments and suffocation in flowing grain involve children under age 14.
Child care -Regardless of the hassles and hardships, seriously consider finding child care for children under age eight when both parents are involved in farm work.
Farm buildings and other hazards - Lock farm buildings and don't allow children to enter alone. Fence farm ponds and manure pits. Cap wells with concrete, and keep firearms in locked cabinets and separate from ammunition storage. Always remove doors from discarded refrigerators and freezers.
Electricity - For children under three, cover outlets. Keep cords out of reach to prevent burns from chewing on the cord, pulling down appliances and strangulation. Shield all electric boxes and wiring. Unplug tools and appliances after use.
Refer to Iowa State University's Safe Farm website for more information.