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Let children play, grow and farm safely

Growing up on a farm can be a wonderful experience for children; however, without proper supervision it can result in tragedy. .

Growing up on a farm can be a wonderful experience for children; however, without proper supervision it can result in tragedy.

.Between 1990 and 2004, 209 children under 15-years old were killed on Canadian farms; and from 1990 to 2000, an additional 1,886 children were hospitalized for farm-related injuries reports the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting program (CAIR).

"A farm is an industrial work site," said Marcel Hacault, Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) executive director. "You wouldn't think of letting your children play unsupervised in an active construction site - so why would you turn them loose on a farm?"

The CAIR study indicates that three-quarters (74.2 per cent) of child fatalities were work-related. Of these deaths, three-quarters (73.5 per cent) involved an adult who was engaged in agricultural work (for example, cases where a child extra rider fell from a tractor or where a pickup truck reversed over a child bystander). Of the remaining quarter (26.5 per cent) of work-related fatalities, the child victim was working.

For children under 15-years of age, bystander runovers and extra rider runovers account for 40 per cent of child fatalities. Drownings represent 15 per cent of work-related fatalities and 45 per cent of non-work related fatalities. The most common causes of hospitalized agricultural injuries in children were falls from heights, working and playing with animals, and entanglement. Falls from heights were especially frequent in five- to nine-year olds.

Children under age five are particularly vulnerable to farm related incidents, accounting for almost half (46 per cent) of all childhood fatalities and a quarter of hospitalizations.

"The best way to keep youngsters safe is to create a safe play area," says Hacault. "It doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be well thought out."

First, select a location that is removed from the farm activity. Preferably it will be adjacent to or in close proximity to the house. Ensure the location is sheltered from wind, free of pests (ants, snakes, rodents, etc.) and free of hazardous plants.

Second, surround the play area with a child protective fence and self-latching gate. Ensure it is sturdy, easy to maintain and a minimum height of four feet.

Third, choose play equipment carefully. Quality play equipment does not have to be expensive. Choose balls, sandboxes or tree swings. Remember all structures that can be climbed should be positioned at least six feet from fencing or other equipment.

Fourth, use protective ground cover such as sand to absorb the shock of falls under play equipment with elevated surfaces such as slides, monkey bars and swings.

Plan.Farm.Safety is the theme of this three-year Canadian Agricultural Safety campaign. Each aspect of the theme will be promoted over the next three years. This year the campaign will promote Plan with safety walkabouts and planning for safety. In the second year, the focus will be on Farm including implementation, documentation and training. In the third year, emphasis will be on Safety including assessment, improvement and further development of safety systems.

The yearlong Plan campaign will be launched with Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW), from March 14 to 20, 2010. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and CASA deliver CASW in partnership with Farm Credit Canada (FCC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

For more information on how to design safe play areas go to National Children's Centre for Rural Safety and Health at www.marshfieldclinic.org/research/children/safePlay.

The CFA, CASA, FCC and AAFC want to remind Canadian farmers to Plan.Farm.Safety!