Summer is a busy time on the farm so take extra safety precautions, especially with children
As the summer days get longer, temperatures (hopefully) begin to rise and children start their school holidays.
IFA’s Farm Family chairperson Caroline Farrell describes how this time of year presents its own particular risks on farms. She outlines the steps we should all take to ensure the entire family stays safe on the farm this summer.
While children look forward to being home on the farm for the summer, now is an important time to have conversations about safety. Tell them about the dangers and set the rules. But don't expect a child to take on the responsibility of keeping themselves safe. Children do not understand danger.
Farms can be family homes as well as workplaces, with children often present. Tragically, between 2007 and 2016, in Ireland, 23 children lost their lives due to farm accidents.
Summer is a particularly dangerous time for children on farms as they’re off school and are about more when work activity is running at a very high level - often with contractors on-site operating potentially dangerous vehicles and machinery.
A farm can be a magical place for children, where independence and responsibility are fostered and family relationships are strengthened, but it can also be a dangerous place where the unthinkable can happen in a matter of seconds.
Growing up on a farm brings both challenges and blessings. It builds character and a solid work ethic and creates an attitude of optimism, but it also has its dangers, which is why it is so important to educate children on safety and risks from an early age.
It is vital that every possible step is taken to reduce the number of fatalities that happen each year on Irish farms, the first step is educating people, especially children. If we can instil in their minds, from an early age, an awareness of the dangers on the farm, and help them to form good farm safety habits, that lesson will be with them for a lifetime.
Top tips to keep children safe on farms this summer:
Farmyards are not playgrounds. Keep children out of work areas and have a fenced off safe play area in view of the home.
Children under 13 years old must not drive or operate tractors or other farm machinery
Children under 13 years old must not ride as passengers on tractors, ATVs or other farm machinery.
Practice what you preach – be a good role model and teach children about the possible dangers.
Have fencing with mesh right down to the ground - so that children cannot slip through gates and fences or climb over them
Have easy to read danger signs and tell children what they mean
NEVER allow children to play, climb or have access to stacks of bales.
It can be tempting to wear less protective clothing in the summer, but in addition to the risk of sunburn, consequences can be long term.
Chronic sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer and fair skinned people (like most of us in Ireland) have a greater risk.
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in Ireland with over 11,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year, however the disease can be prevented in nine out of ten cases.
To reduce your risk of skin damage, organise your day so that you are in the shade when UV rays are strongest from 11am to 3pm.
It is advisable to check your skin once a month for any changes and if you notice anything unusual, go to your doctor and get it checked out.
Up to 90 per cent of UV rays can get through light cloud and it doesn’t have to be a warm and sunny day for dangerous UV rays to be present.
Seek shade: UV rays are at their strongest generally between 11am and 3pm, so plan you day and seek shade during these hours.
Cover up: by wearing a shirt with a collar and long shorts. Also wear a hat that gives shade to your face, neck and ears.
Wear wraparound sunglasses: The sun can damage your eyes after prolonged exposure too. make sure they give UV protection.
Use sunscreen: Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and UVA protection 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours – more often if swimming or perspiring.
Check the UV index: Visit www.cancer.ie/uvindex.
Few of us will forget the drought we experienced in Summer 2018. While this weather was unprecedented, it is important to be conscious of working outside in hot weather. Know the signs of heat illness and ways to prevent it to make sure you can be productive this summer.
Your ability to sweat declines with age, so people over 40 should take extra precautions when it is hot. In humid conditions, perspiration can’t evaporate as readily to cool you off.
Tips for working in hot weather include:
Stay hydrated: It is one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of heat illness.
Take breaks to hydrate and cool off.
Don’t push yourself if you feel ill. You could put yourself at a higher risk of having an accident.
National Farm Safety Week takes place this year brom July 15-19. Visit www.ifa.ie.