Alma Jordan explains the personal story which led to the launch of AgriKids
AgriKids was formed from a personal perspective to grow farm safety awareness and practice within my own family.
Moved to tears from the deaths of two young children on a farm, I wanted farm safety conversations to happen in my home. I felt by doing so we were not only encouraging better practices on our farm but creating an instinctive culture and behaviour around farm safety.
Looking to find resources to help educate myself led me to create a platform with child friendly resources that could be used by families.
What started as something I wanted for my own family now found its way into schools, communities and homes. It hasn’t been easy but nothing worth having ever is. The reasons why safety was still such an issue for the sector came down to a culture and excuses.
‘Sure it’s always been done like this’. ‘Isn’t this how we all learned’ ‘I haven’t the time’. ‘It would never happen to me’.
My ethos with AgriKids was that through engagement and education, we can empower children to be farm safety ambassadors, creating more opportunities to grow the conversation with events and resources.
Farm safety, especially with our children now at home for the foreseeable future must be brought to the fore. For some farmers having older children home and available to help with farm duties is welcomed. However keeping younger housebound kids away from busy farmyards is becoming another clear and present danger for our farm families.
Now that Covid-19 has closed our schools I am no longer able to carry out school workshops and we are missing a vital opportunity to prepare and support our children to be farm safe over the summer months.
I have been concerned with the volume of farm themed videos and images appearing on social media. Young children, as young as five driving tractors, toddlers assisting with livestock, and people ‘self-isolating’ in diet feeders are just a few that come to mind.
The problem is that not only are we allowing (and recording) these dangerous activities but we are giving other viewers ideas to mimic the behaviour …….. things like this can go viral and let’s face it we have enough virus’ to worry about.
So what can farm families do to strike the balance with keeping housebound children busy while also encouraging awareness on farm safety.
1. Discourage the likelihood of children going to the farm, especially alone! If one parent is home prepare a normal school day, include breaks and PE to keep some sense of normality. A walk and visit to the farm after will be welcomed.
2. I saw on Twitter a child of about 8 years old writing down tag numbers from livestock. Farm jobs, such as these are perfect for kids home from school. So encourage them to carry out jobs, but make sure they are age appropriate and do not expose them to unnecessary risks.
3. If there’s calving or lambing on the farm, remember the risks. Freshly calved cows are a long time considered our most dangerous farm animal. Calving is a highly stressful time for a cow and in a state of agitation they can attack, so this is not a place for kids to be. If for whatever reason they have to be there create a ‘safety zone’ for them behind a barrier.
4. We are all more than a little familiar with hand washing at this point! However handwashing has long been the go to advice to prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Working closely with livestock can expose you to orf and ringworm. If children are with lambs or calves make sure you tell them to wash their hands after.
5. Silage season is coming in and with it will be the increase of heavy machinery and workers under pressure. Make sure the yard becomes a ‘No Go Zone’ during this time. 81% of all child related fatalities over the past 10 years is due to tractors and farm machinery.
If you have contractors coming to the yard, do not put your children into a tractor with them, theirs is not a babysitting service and this is a common grievance they have with
farmers when working on certain farms. No child under 7 is permitted in a tractor and for those over 7, they are only permitted when there is a passenger seat and seat belt.
6. Remember no child under the age of 14 is permitted to drive a tractor and those of the correct age must have a licence and training before doing so.
7. No child under 16 is permitted to use quad bikes commonly used on farms and should definitely not be a passenger on one. Having a passenger on a quad bike shifts the balance and increases the likelihood of the machine tipping over.
8. Use this time as an opportunity to teach and show the accident prevention measures you have in place. This will give children reassurance that you too are minding yourself and encourage them to form these habits for later life.
I have never been an advocate of keeping children off a farm 100%. A farm is a place wealthy in learning opportunities on science, animal care, enterprise and food production. However as our children remain home with us, exercise caution and common sense. Farm risks should be avoided in the same way we are striving to avoid exposure to Covid-19.