‘Crazy’ social media posts of children flout farm safety advice

A young person ‘self-isolating’ inside a diet feeder; children on machinery; and a toddler off-loading ewes and lambs with another child in the trailer, are among the worrying practices highlighted on social media posts in recent weeks, according to Alma Jordan, founder of AgriKids – a farm safety educational platform for children.

“It’s crazy stuff. We are looking at a potentially tragic situation arising on farms having kids home from school and childcare options non-existent in some cases during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This leaves the door wide open – literally – for children to be granted access to farms or indeed wandering to their own devices during a busy time. This busy time will continue with silage,” she said.

“We need to draw attention to these behaviours and call them out as passing on notions to others who might try the same could result in irreversible outcomes,” contended Alma, who said she felt compelled to speak out on the posts in the wake of so many farm deaths.

Consequences could be horrendous

Supporting her sentiments about the social media posts is Brian Rohan of Embrace Farm which works with families affected by farm injuries and deaths.

A neighbour, he said, had witnessed one of his ewes turn around and break a lamb’s leg as it shot off a trailer. “What could it do to a child?” Brian asked.

Even minor injuries necessitated hospital visits which, in the current climate, would divert resources away from urgent situations, Brian said.

“While it’s brilliant to see kids playing music, there are so many other places to do it other than a diet feeder. It’s hard to be the bad guy and we all did things on farms without seeing the danger but with improved weather, machines going and children on farms, the consequences of taking risks could be horrendous.”

With his own children, he brings them individually to the farm on prearranged days when he knows he will have time to supervise them.

“They love the experience,” said Brian, who lost his father through a farm accident.

We can’t lock children up and expect them to come down to the farm at 18, but it takes only one second for something drastic to go wrong.

“Children can get bored on farms after a while and if there is a few of them, they can start messing. Children who were used to being with childminders and at after-school activities may be in unknown territory now if one parent is working in front-line services and the other is farming.”

2 worlds clashing

Alma continued on this point, saying: “We are now in the second week of no school. For many of us the ‘novelty’ of having children home and home-schooling is very much waning and we find ourselves stressed and frazzled with having to co-ordinate childcare and conference calls.

It’s two worlds we thought would never clash.

“In our old world, I would have been gearing up to visit over 30 schools and communities with farm safety workshops.

“It’s a great opportunity to engage and impact our children on the topic ahead of the Easter and summer holidays. However, this is something else Covid-19 has taken from us,” said Alma.

“It is unlikely these events will happen now as no word of when and if schools will reopen for the summer term has been given.

“So children are home for the foreseeable future and for those living on farms, not being able to serve them the reminders and instil the advice on being farm safe could pose another threat to our rural communities.

“Unfortunately, I am already seeing instances where this threat might ring true. In recent days, videos and pictures on social media posts of young children being exposed to risk are doing the rounds on our news-feeds.

These are sending out a green card to others to replicate and risk a viral epidemic of a different but still highly lethal nature.

“In just one week alone, on social media posts, I have seen young kids offloading ewes with lambs; driving machinery; jumping and climbing on top of pallets of fertiliser; and one video that was sent to me from a concerned viewer, saw an individual ‘self-isolating’ inside a diet feeder.

“If this is just one week what will the next two, three, five weeks be like and what will the impact be?” Alma asked.

‘Disaster and tragedy could strike’

“These are set up to be funny and innocent but what they do is spread and enable unsafe practices, teaching others to try something similar and this is where disaster and tragedy could strike.

All it takes is for one trip, one fall, one stumble, one puck from stressed livestock, for an irreversible tragedy to befall a community and household. And all because it was seen on social media and copied.

“We need to draw attention to these behaviours and call them out as passing on notions to others who might try the same that could result in irreversible outcomes,” Alma said.

“I obviously advocate for better farm safety but I also advocate the benefits of life on a farm for our children. The best place to learn enterprise, science, animal husbandry and food origin is on a farm; it’s happening in real time.

“But we need to limit the risk we expose our children to and look to permit jobs that are age-appropriate,” she said.

Social media as we all know has been a double-edged sword for Covid-19, a purveyor of truths, facts and good practices but, and in equal measure, many untruths and bad practice is also circulated. Let’s not add to it.

“Let’s think before we post and, as the ESB ads say: ‘Ask yourself is this safe?’

“Every time a crisis has hit, our farmers have been at the fore providing solutions to safeguard, from clearing snowy paths to helping keep food on rapidly depleting shelves.

“Right now we have an opportunity to show the world just how vital farmers are to our survival. So promote the good practices you do; that is something I would love to go viral.”

Get in contact

Embrace Farm can be contacted on: [email protected]; or: 085-7709966.

Further information on Agrikids is on: www.agrikids.ie.