The beginning of another growing season and the end of school means many children and young adults will soon play a more active role in their family farms, or as hired help. However, as the children are eager to help on the farm, there are many factors to keep in mind — including their safety.
Balanced against the positives of children doing farm work (such as development of work ethic and self-esteem, earned money), there are serious risks. During the past decade, more youth have died working in agriculture than all other industries combined.
Three new safety resource booklets — covering farm equipment operation, working with animals, and gardening — provide guidelines that can help adults assign age- and ability-appropriate tasks to young people.
“If we can get farm parents and supervisors to use the guidelines to assign work, it will ultimately result in less injuries and fatalities for our working youth,” said Marsha Salzwedel, Ed.D., project scientist with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, part of the National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wis.
The guidelines are pulled from the Agricultural Youth Work Guidelines, developed by the National Children’s Center and covering more than 50 commonly performed tasks. Each guideline contains details about common hazards, important protective strategies and the roles adults play in ensuring a safe work environment.
“The guidelines included in each booklet pertain to a specific topic,” Salzwedel said. “For example, in ‘Safety Guidelines for Youth Operating Farm Equipment,’ we pulled in guidelines relevant to that topic, like ‘Operating a Tractor.’”
The booklets not only explain how to use the guidelines, they also provide important supplemental information on supervision, child development, communication, and regulations.
All three booklets will soon be available in Spanish and French. To request a print copy of any of the booklets, please email [email protected] with your name and shipping information. The booklets can be accessed here.