Smart, Savvy and Safe Farm Kids

Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Safety As­so­ci­a­tion

The Drumheller Mail - - AROUND TOWN -

The value of hard work, a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and pride in a job well done are char­ac­ter­is­tics that all par­ents want to nur­ture in their chil­dren. There is noth­ing more grat­i­fy­ing than see­ing your child ac­com­plish great things through hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Farm kids are lucky be­cause they see first-hand how to ac­com­plish tasks suc­cess­fully, be stew­ards of land and live­stock, and take pride in hard work. How­ever, rais­ing a suc­cess­ful, smart and savvy farm kid doesn’t have to come at the price of their safety.

Dis­cus­sions con­cern­ing the is­sues of farm safety and chil­dren of­ten can be con­tro­ver­sial and emo­tion­ally charged, but there is one point that ev­ery­body agrees on – the death of even just one child is a hor­rific tragedy.

It’s im­por­tant that par­ents and care­givers un­der­stand that chil­dren aren’t minia­ture adults. Even the most ad­vanced eight-year-old is still a child. And th­ese won­der­ful young peo­ple don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence, phys­i­cal strength or un­der­stand­ing to al­ways make the right choice, han­dle large equip­ment or be en­trusted with com­pli­cated farm­ing tasks.

Chil­dren grow and progress through dif­fer­ent stages of phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional de­vel­op­ment. Phys­i­cally, chil­dren are dif­fer­ent than adults. Some chil­dren are big for their age, that’s true, but their stamina, strength, and fine mo­tor skills are still de­vel­op­ing. Men­tally, chil­dren don’t al­ways un­der­stand con­se­quences of risky be­hav­ior. Even the most ma­ture child doesn’t have the life ex­pe­ri­ence or crit­i­cal think­ing skills to al­ways make the best choices.

Emo­tion­ally, chil­dren haven’t de­vel­oped the skills to bal­ance im­pulses against risk or to al­ways know when to ask for help.

Take a crit­i­cal look at your child. Do they al­ways make the best choices? Are they al­ways phys­i­cally ca­pa­ble of do­ing mun­dane tasks? Do they act im­pul­sively? All chil­dren do im­pul­sive things, aren’t al­ways phys­i­cally up to the task and some­times make poor choices. It’s up to par­ents and care­givers to es­tab­lish bound­aries and guide­lines, not just in ev­ery­day life, but also when it comes to farm safety.

Risk tak­ing is an im­por­tant part of grow­ing up. Chil­dren that take age-ap­pro­pri­ate risks and en­gage in age-ap­pro­pri­ate tasks stand a bet­ter chance of grow­ing up into skilled, ca­pa­ble, and con­fi­dent adults. The North Amer­i­can Guide­lines for Chil­dren’s Agri­cul­tural Tasks is an ex­cel­lent re­source that par­ents and care­givers can use to guide de­ci­sions about what kinds of farm­ing tasks are age-ap­pro­pri­ate. Th­ese are guide­lines, you know your child best, but re­mem­ber to take into con­sid­er­a­tion that par­ents of­ten over­es­ti­mate their child. Be crit­i­cal and be truth­ful about your child’s abil­ity when de­ter­min­ing what tasks are ap­pro­pri­ate.

Chil­dren’s safety on the farm just doesn’t end with as­sign­ing ap­pro­pri­ate farm­ing tasks. It also de­pends on their role mod­els and de­ci­sions that those adults make re­gard­ing safety on the farm. Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural In­jury Re­port­ing, there were 248 agri­cul­tural fa­tal­i­ties among chil­dren and youth in Canada un­der 15 years of age. Al­though 71% of the agri­cul­tural fa­tal­i­ties among chil­dren were workre­lated, in 8 out of 10 cases, the vic­tim was not ac­tu­ally do­ing the work. Th­ese young vic­tims were killed by some­one else who was en­gaged in agri­cul­tural work.

So what can we do to pre­vent th­ese un­timely deaths? First, we have to re­think “tra­di­tion”.

Farm­ers are of­ten on the fore­front of new and ex­cit­ing ideas, af­ter all it was farm­ers who cham­pi­oned min­i­mal tillage and moved away from the tra­di­tional black dirt of sum­mer fal­low.

The same kind of think­ing needs to be ap­plied to safety on the farm. It might be “tra­di­tion” to al­low ex­tra rid­ers on the farm equip­ment. And it might be “tra­di­tion” to have chil­dren around farm ma­chin­ery, but that doesn’t mean it has to be this way.

Build new tra­di­tions. Talk about the farm equip­ment, teach chil­dren how they work, show them the proper safety gear, ex­plore your farm to­gether in a safe and con­trolled way. Keep­ing chil­dren safe doesn’t mean that they can’t be in­volved in the farm. In­stead, it means that your chil­dren will be around to be the next gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers, who will in turn carry on the tra­di­tion of a suc­cess­ful farm­ing op­er­a­tion.

Our chil­dren are our great- est ac­com­plish­ment and joy. Let them learn, run, jump, play and work.

But let’s make sure they do it at ac­cept­able risk lev­els. Take the time to un­der­stand the risks farm chil­dren face and how to nur­ture our fu­ture farm­ers in a healthy and safe way.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Keep­ing Kids Safe and Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Safety Week, visit agsafe­ty­week.ca. To ac­cess the North Amer­i­can Guide­lines for Chil­dren’s Agri­cul­tural tasks, please visit agsafe­ty­week.ca and click on Re­sources.

About Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Safety Week: Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Safety Week (CASW) is a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign fo­cus­ing on the im­por­tance of farm safety. CASW takes place ev­ery year dur­ing the third week of March. In 2016, CASW takes place March 13 to 19. CASW 2016 is pre­sented by Farm Credit Canada. For more in­for­ma­tion visit agsafe­ty­week.ca.

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