- Need for health and safety on farms.
- Farms are different work environments from most other btypes of business.
- Young people and teenagers are especially at risk.
Working on a farm of any size presents unique challenges in terms of health and safety, for two main reasons.
Firstly the size and spread of the farm that means there are many different potential risks, both in terms of land, machinery and different types of activities that are carried out, given the nature of the work.
Secondly, is that many farms are either family owned, or are seen more as a lifestyle than a professional job. This view is irritating to a lot of farmers, but does have some measure of truth in it.
The important feature however, is that the nature of farms means that many families both own, or rent, and live on the farm.
This makes it both a workplace and a home at the same time. Being able to separate out these two things is often both impractical, and very difficult to do.
Where this impacts most on health and safety is on the risk of injury or death to children or young people. Many people below the age of 18 live and work on farms.
They routinely use farm machinery such as tractors, when they may not have the appropriate age related understanding of the risks involved that an older person would probably have.
They are either members of the family who own the farm, children of people who work and live on the farm, or sometimes children of seasonal workers who are involved in working there.
The statistics for the risk of injury or fatality to young people bear out this risk, and give some pointers as to how best to minimise it.
Between 1995 and 2002, there were just over 900 young people killed on farms in the USA.
Most of these were male, and they are mostly aged between 16 and 19. Just over a quarter of these deaths involved some type of machinery, approximately 15% involve some type of vehicle and again about 15% related to drowning.
It is difficult to get accurate figures for injuries on farms in USA, but some data suggest there could be as many as 15,000 injuries a year on farms. A lot of these seem to rates to falls, possibly from machinery, construction, ladders etc.
It should be remembered that on farms it is considered a healthy thing that children and young people get involved in the work, which is a very different ethos from most other industry.
This in part is because the work is part of the family life, and such things as learning to drive tractors on farm land is something that young people start to do, often in their teens.
Most other industries have viewed children and young people working in them as some sort of child labour, and have pretty much banned the practice.
Much health and safety legislation is geared to protecting children, teenagers and young adults from being exploited in this way.
Because life on a farm is both a mix of work and home, children and young people get involved from an early age, and it becomes part of their life. This can be a really good thing, so long as precautions are taken to minimise risk to their safety wherever possible.
Most important of all is to identify where the risks are, both in a home and a business context, and make sure they are clearly managed through a risk assessment plan.
A risk assessment plan does not have to be a formal document, although signage and labelling can be crucial in terms of helping people to remember any particular risk in a specific area.
Having a plan, whether written or verbal, is really important, as is training. This can relate both to initial formal training, and to ongoing training, either formal or on-the-job.
Whilst children and young adults are suited to a variety of tasks on a farm or agricultural business, there are some jobs that are not suitable for them.
The work that they do should be clearly identified on an ongoing basis. Any potential risks should be talked through them and identified, and they should be carefully observed at how they manage those risks or not.
As well at having a plan, there should always be appropriate equipment and clothing available for any type of work may require it.
In addition, any work that involves any type of hazardous material or chemical should always be done by adults who are fully trained in dealing with these substances.
They need to be fully aware of the risks involved, and are able to do with any potential problems that may arise if for any reason something goes wrong.
Peter Main is a freelance writer who specializes in agriculture and related matters with all major manufacturers, such as farm machinery, tractors, utvs, lawn and garden tractors, and snowblowers.
His main site is about Kubota tractors