Farm Safety Week 2015 (Day 5) – ‘Farming – it’s not child’s play!’

10 July 2015

Farm safety week

Today marks the final day designated to #FarmSafetyWeek and we are reminded that “farming is not child’s play!” . Farmers are being urged not to learn safety by accident, especially when it comes to children…

According to Rob Jones, Farm Safety Foundation Trustee:  “Every child loves being on the farm, but while it can be place of great fun and excitement, it can also be an extremely dangerous environment – especially for children. As a parent of two young children it is upsetting to read that sixteen children have lost their lives on farms in England Scotland and Wales over the past decade. Farms remain the only workplace where children still continue to die in what is always a horrific tragedy for families and heart-breaking for their communities. This is why it is important that the issue of farm safety is addressed, a plan is devised and implemented properly.“

“Summer is a time when children can be more at risk with the long school summer holidays and the challenging workloads for farmers.  We are encouraging farming families to have a dedicated safe play area for younger children so as to keep them safe from heavy machinery and other dangers around the farm, particularly when farms are at their busiest. Too often, children have access to the entire farm and view it as one big play space. Children must be taught about farm dangers and be kept isolated from these risks.”

Rob added: “Whilst it is important that children are looked after they should still be encouraged to engage with farms in order to learn how they work and understand how food is produced. It is also important that the next generation of farmers are able to safely help their parents on the farm. If children are old enough, tell them about the dangers they should look out for and where they are not allowed to go and encourage them to be responsible. Don’t let them learn safety by accident. Always take the time to think about what you are doing on the farm, where the children are and what might go wrong as making a few simple checks could actually save a life – maybe your own child’s!”

Recent Prosecution

Child safety on farms hit the headlines again following the recent court case which resulted in a farming family being fined £9,000 after a three-year-old boy needed plastic surgery for deep lacerations on his foot after it was caught in a grain auger during harvest in September 2013.

He was on the first floor of a barn with Christopher Hammersley (aged 43), who was moving grain using two augers – when the youngster’s foot was pulled into one. The auger had a guard but this was not designed for a child’s dimensions.  He suffered deep lacerations to the top of his left foot which required plastic surgery and several nights in hospital.

HSE inspectors found that the boy had accessed the first floor of the barn via a ladder. As well as the dangers this posed, there were also open edges on the first floor, poor electrical insulation and significant levels of grain, dust and noise.

This situation was all the more surprising and tragic because it occurred on a farm where another young family member - Robert Hammersley - was killed in 2009 at a similar age (just two years and eight months) when he was hit by a telehandler.

All 4 defendants pleaded guilty to breaching HSWA Section 3(2):

  • Ivan Hammersley (aged 72), of White House Farm was fined £3,000
  • Jane Hammersley (66), of the same address was given a two-year conditional discharge.
  • Christopher Hammersley (43), also of White House Farm, was fined £5,000.
  • Daniel Hammersley (40), of Ashbourne, was fined £1,000.

They were also each ordered to pay court costs of £500 too.

The local newspaper, The Ashbourne News Telegraph, reported that District Judge Jonathan Taafe told them: “At worst this was reckless, at best it was negligent. The view that is sometimes canvassed is that health and safety is an optional extra. It is not an optional extra. Risk assessment and risk management is a matter of utmost importance. This could have been an incident in which loss of life could have been involved.”

Prosecuting inspector Stuart Parry said after the case: “Agriculture has one of the highest fatal incident rates of any industry. It is also the only high-risk industry that has to deal with the frequent presence of children. Farms are homes as well as workplaces.

“Children should be kept in a safe place, such as a dedicated play area. Alternatively if they are observing farm work, it should be at a safe distance with a competent adult providing supervision, and that adult must not be the person undertaking the work task.”

RIG’s view: This case sends a strong messages out to the industry about the the importance of keeping children separated from work activities and the simple precautions that need to be taken to reduce the toll of injuries to children on our farms. The potential consequences don’t bear thinking about.  Clearly some people still don’t!  Free guidance on child safety on farms is widely available, and the precautions are simple, so there is no excuse.

Another recent incident

Another two-year-old child was killed in County Cork on Saturday 23 May when the dividing door from a horsebox fell on him. He was airlifted to Cork University Hospital but died shortly after.

TV advert

The Farm Safety Partnership NI have also produced a clever and hard hitting TV advert on farm/child safety. This short film promotes safety around farm vehicle visibility as part of their ongoing ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ campaign. It features the possible aftermath of the accidental death of a young boy on a farm, while reinforcing the message that such accidents can be avoided by putting in place simple safety measures.

Speaking about the campaign, NI’s Health and Safety Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is a powerful advertisement with a hard-hitting message that challenges us on an emotional level. However, we can’t shy away from the realities of the total devastation that can befall a family after a fatal farm accident – particularly one involving a child.

“While awareness about safety is high across the industry, farmers must step up and take responsibility for making sure they follow safe working practices at all times.”

Also welcoming the launch of the new advert, Minister for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Michelle O’Neill said: “Farmers have told us that they need to hear powerful safety messages and there is no doubt that this ad delivers.

“Anyone who cuts corners around safety needs to understand that they are risking tragic consequences that will leave a trail of heartbreak for themselves and their families.”

Ulster Farmers Union President Ian Marshall said : “As a farmer, I understand that we can’t underplay the realities of farming when it comes to safety. For many, farms are also family homes and this new advert underlines the need for all of us to play our part so that avoidable accidents like the one portrayed can be avoided.”

Guidance

Free guidance to help manage risks to children on farms is widely available, including:

Game

The Farm Safety Foundation are targeting younger people, through their ‘Yellow Wellies’ initiative, and with this ‘generation’ in mind they are actively engaging with young (and many ‘older’!) people  through the use of social media to ‘reach out’ and influence them. 

With this group in mind, they have also developed the game ‘Keep Clive Alive’. An App to run this interactive game is available for Android®, iPhone® and iPad®. This can be downloaded via the Yellow Wellies website. Enjoy!

IOSH/RIG promotional activity

We are aware that some members are still involved with local shows or other initiatives to promote arm safety to children.  For example, Alan Plom worked with members of Unite the Union at ‘Kids’ Country Food & Farming Day’ , held at Peterborough Showground in Cambs on the Friday before Farm Safety Week started. 

Over 5000 youngsters were bussed in from local schools and many came from surrounding counties. In our ‘Safety Zone, we raised awareness of the dangers of large lorries turning or reversing, drowning in grain and water, and using (water-based) fire extinguishers. In other years we have featured safety on rail crossings, emergency first aid, etc.

RIG Committee members have also given radio interviews on behalf of IOSH on child safety each summer.

Please let us know what is going on to educate the young in your part of the world.

PS. Although today is officially the end of the designated topics  for #FarmSafetyWeek RIG is issuing further articles to cover Saturday and Sunday – on the premise that  farming is a 24/7 occupation. Look out for guidance on Occupational Health issues, and ‘What to do in an Emergency’.