Farms are a fertile environment for learning, particularly from a child's perspective. Growing up on a farm, visiting and understanding the goings-on in an agricultural environment will give youngsters a wider insight into how the world works - as well as introducing them to animals and building confidence in a setting that is very different to what they would be used to.
However, as we all know, the farmyard is not a theme park. In fact, it's a more hazardous place than adults really have any reason to believe. From live machinery to moving vehicles, dangerous animals and harmful chemicals - when we interact with these things every day, we can forget how dangerous they are to those who live outside of the agricultural community.
To get you prepared for any younger visitors you may have, Waterman's have put together a few essential things to look out for when you have children visiting your farm.
Moving & Static Vehicles
Is easy to forget how farming vehicles have evolved over the years, but as time as gone by, humble tractors have turned into mighty machines that dwarf adults let alone children... If you have any pint-sized visitors to your farm, you can almost say for certain that they'll want to go and investigate ploughs, loaders and anything else that looks appealling or makes a big noise.
Moving vehicles are obviously dangerous for lots of different reasons but don't forget that static vehicles also come with hazards of their own so consider the following...
#1. Make sure your child wears a high vis jacket at all times.
#2. Make those working on the farm aware that children will be visiting that day so everyone can stay extra vigilant.
#3. Ensure that children are supervised at all times when on the farm.
#4. All vehicles should have their rearview mirrors and any other vision support mirrors cleaned to prevent accidents.
#5. If you're unable to guarantee supervision on a particular day, or during a busy season or time of year, don't allow visitors to your farm, reorganise a tour or trip another day.
Precarious Items And Objects
When it comes to precariously placed items and objects, accidents often arise when there's a perfect storm between farm equipment being incorrectly or lazily stored and the opportunity for a child to wander off unsupervised.
Whether it's hefty gates lent up against a wall, rickety machinery or fencing, the farm may seem relatively safe to you or me, but it can be a minefield of hazards for children.
#1. Make sure large items that are prone to collapsing are identified and put away safely.
#2. Keep children away from hay bales - it may seem like fun, but they can come tumbling down.
#3. Try to identify fire hazards or combustible objects that, when combined, could cause a fire.
#4. Again, make sure they're supervised at all times...
Farm animals will be a complete novelty to young children, but bear in mind that cows and bulls can be aggressive if provoked, particularly if they're looking after their offspring.
Make sure areas containing animals are properly child-proofed and fenced off so no one can climb over and fall in. Depending on how old the child or children are, it's a good idea to get them into the habit of leaving gates as they found them. If a gate is found open, it should be left open, if you come across a closed one, leave it closed.
Illness and Disease
Your cattle may be at the absolute peak of health, but it's important to consider that a child's immune system is different to that of an adult farmer, and exposure to potential diseases could have pretty unpleasant consequences.
Introducing a supervised youngster to pigs, horses and sheep is fun, but make sure they stay clear of any grimy areas in the cattle housing and if they are touching, feeding and petting animals, they need to be properly washing their hands before going inside, eating food or playing indoors.
Once they come back from the farm, they should immediately change out of any dirty, muddy or stained clothing incase they've accidentally come into contact with manure, pesticides or any other nasty substances... Which leads us onto our final point.
You and everyone who works on the farm knows they're hazardous, but when you're using cleaning products, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals every day, the basic risks and precautions can often disappear amidst the task at hand.
If children are visiting the farm, keep any chemicals and pesticides properly contained and stored away from reach, with their caps full screwed on and placed deep into the shelves so they can't fall down. It's also worth re-evaluating how you use and store your hazardous substances, to protect you, your family and your colleagues, not just the vistors.