Farm safety also takes a village

It is a matter of encouraging a culture of farm safety

FARMS can be one of the happiest places for kids in the world - but also one of the most dangerous.

That farm life can be idyllic for youngsters is brought home by country folk as far away as in England, where the 'Yorkshire Shepherdess', Amanda Owen, often tweets photos of her kids exploring the Dales.

Having grown up near a friend's dairy and sheep farm, I have abiding memories of Alan's father giving us a ticking off for going into a silo without permission.

But there also happy memories: of the orphaned lamb Droopy, and of roaming far and wide over the property from dawn to dusk.

But there is a more serious side.

On properties, children learn to help with daily tasks and chores from an early age.

They are expected to assist in the running of the farm, which can be a dangerous place.

Figures released to the Royal Children's Hospital farm safety forum last week show some of the hazards faced every day.

While farm accidents accounted for less than one per cent of all hospital treatment in the past five years, 616 children were affected.

Monash University Injury Research Unit statistics show 75pc of all hospital-treated cases can be broken into three categories: transport, animals and falls.

And, as the old adage has it that "it takes a village to raise a child", farm safety is everyone's responsibility.

It is a matter of encouraging a culture of farm safety, of finding common ground on how to minimise risk.

What might be acceptable to one farmer or grazier may be seen as quite risky by another.

Hard work can be quickly undone if neighbours don't have the same safety values.

As National Centre for Farmer Health lecturer Dr Jacqui Cotton told a forum last week, it's about the response of the whole community.

Children learn about safety at home, at school, from friends and neighbours, and through what they see on television, hear on radio and read.

Dr Cotton says education centres on highlighting the big issues and then tailoring programs and campaigns to fit.

When that happens, the farm can be both a place of great joy and learning for children and a safe environment in which to grow up.

A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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