Children the focus of vital education initiative

Cork County Council highlights the importance of farm safety to primary school children across County Cork.
Children the focus of vital education initiative
Cork County Council's programmes are highlighting the importance of farm safety to primary school children across County Cork.

Cork County Council, as part of its Safety Flag Education Programme, highlights the importance of farm safety to primary school children across County Cork.

As the largest rural Local Authority in the country, it’s fitting that Cork County Council should take the lead in educating young people around possible dangers on farms.

The safety programme, developed by Cork County Council’s water and road safety officer, Caroline Casey, aims to promote safety in the way we do things on a daily basis, whether that’s on the farm, on the roads or near water, supervision and education are key to keeping children safe.

Every decade, around 30 children lose their lives to drowning here in Ireland. That’s an average classroom. 9.8% of fatal farm accidents in 2019 related to children. These are worrying statistics.

In the Safety Flag initiative, senior primary students become peer safety coaches in their schools. Participating schools receive an activity resource pack with board games, story books, activity books, songs and presentations which are used in the classroom and at safety workshops run by the older primary school children.

The programme encourages children to take ownership of the programme. Older children become role models for younger ones and the coaching model in turn promotes a common sense approach to their own personal safety and decision making. The ‘safety & consequence to action’ message is spread throughout each locality as it becomes the culture of the school and the message is conveyed home through allocation of homework.

Important farm safety questions for children

One aspect of the programme the children really like is the “Take 30” exercise, in which the children slow down and take 30 seconds before they make a decision around their safety.

They ask themselves key questions like:

  • Is this Safe?
  • What could happen to me?
  • What would my parents advise me to do?
  • Am I showing good example?
  • And what would I advise a younger child to do?

In most cases the children agreed that by answering these questions it was very likely they would make safer decisions.

Exploring the possible dangers in an interactive way encourages children to think for themselves, use common sense, and not be impulsive with their safety. Behaviour around cleaning chemicals and medicines, slurry pits, ponds/rivers, water-holes/containers, animals, climbing gates/bales, quads, tractors and other large machinery is all discussed and the related dangers identified.

Hand washing is very topical at the moment. At all Council safety educational workshops, children are continually reminded that they need to wash their hands especially if they have been on the farm.

Safety days at Tír na Sí Open Farm

Cork County Council also host safety days at Tír na Sí Open Farm. The day begins with an indoor Barn Workshop on Safety. The Road Safety Authority, the Coast Guard, An Garda Síochána and Water Safety Ireland provide excellent advice to the children at these events. The children then progress to a farm tour where they can identify each of the dangers they learned about under the supervision of the Tír na Sí staff. Songs, poems, raps and dances are regularly performed by the children at the event to loud applause!

These safety days, much enjoyed by all children, cater for around 1,000 attendees every year. A very special guest is invited to all of Cork County Council School Safety Events, Mr. Pádraig Higgins, whose son James was 6 years old when he tragically drowned on the family farm. Pádraig reminds the children that a farm is not a playground and encourages kids to let an adult know if they spot a danger on their farm.

Below is a link recommended for children to check out, especially now when schools are closed. Children are curious creatures and the temptation to roam the farm by them-selves is always there. Let’s educate them of the dangers but remember supervision is key to staying safe so adults please keep a good eye on the children and set a good safe example.

Children will do as you do so please model safe behaviour at all times!

Find out more by visiting www.CorkCoCo.ie.

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