Opinion

Some people think a 12-year-old driving a tractor is crazy – and they’re right

When non-farming people hear of a 13-year-old driving a tractor on a public road, they find it crazy that such situation could arise.

They’re right too – it is crazy.

Last year 30 people died in farming-related accidents and already this year, the Health and Safety Authority confirms that eight farm deaths have occurred this year already.

Two of the major factors in farm deaths are age and machinery. Last year, five children died in farming accidents.

Time and time again the research shows that farm machinery is the main cause of farming deaths in Ireland.

Almost half of all fatal incidents on farms in Ireland have involved tractors or machinery (49%) and the next most hazardous activity causing death is working with livestock (13%), the HSA says.

Our recent poll on Agriland showed that the vast majority of farmers today first drove a tractor when they were 12 years old or younger.

This frightening statistic shows a number of things but more than anything it shows the attitude of farmers towards children being active on farms.

Urgent attitude change required

Children in the farmyard is the ultimate conundrum for farm families.

Farmers are keen to see their kids involved from a young age, often instilling a life-long love affair with the land which could be threatened if they were banned from the yard.

While, at the same time, most farming parents know of the dangers of their profession.

Supervised or unsupervised, farm yards are work places and are an unavoidably dangerous area for children.

Unsupervised children in a farmyard is unacceptable and should never be allowed.

The attitude to young children being allowed ‘work’ on farms also has to stop.

Driving the tractor while the rest of the family loads a trailer of bales; just driving down the road to bring home turf, drives a tractor in a silage convoy; or stands in a gap while cattle are being moved is simply asking for trouble.

Just because you’re in the field with him – doesn’t mean he can’t turn over the tractor on his own.

Until the attitude changes to accept that farming is a dangerous profession and while having the children with you might be safer than unsupervised, involving children in farm work is dangerous and will end in tears for some families.

Children on farms will always want to be involved and accidents will always happen, but the number of tragic farm deaths can be significantly reduced when the attitude to children being on farms changes.

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