‘Think safety first when hosting festive visitors on the farm’

The founder of AgriKids, Alma Jordan, has urged farming households to think safety first this Christmas as visitors descend on farms around the country.

“As a child, Christmas in our house only started when my dad was home from the yard, cattle fed and light jobs done. He was warned not to be doing anything that could ‘wait until after’,” recalled Alma.

Visitors added to the fun festive, she said. “Friends and family came to visit and if the weather was good, bringing non-farming visitors to the farm was always a temptation.

“‘Please can I show them the pony or the cattle shed?’ we would beg. ‘Can we take a run up the silage pit? We promise not to put holes in the black wrap, please, please, please?’

“‘No’, was the firm answer. ‘You’ll destroy your clothes.’ As I look back, I find it bizarre that soiling clothes was the key concern,” said Alma.

As Christmas visitors arrive, there is no better time to remind of and lay down the rules regarding access to the farm. While many of us assume our children are aware of the dangers, when you have visitors, a lot of that common sense you have instilled can go out the window.

“Children get excited and, dare I say, a little overly self-assured and complacent to the hazards that can lie beyond the farm gate,” Alma said.

River

“I am immediately reminded of the time I took my non-farming cousin for an ‘adventure’ hike in the river that ran to the back of our house. It may not have been the deepest but the residing rats and slippery rocks were the threats I seemed to be blissfully unaware of.

“Looking back, I believe I was fully aware of the dangers but chose to ignore them in a bid to impress my cousin. We gave up on our adventure as the muck and cold got the better of us, only to be found by my furious mother who was certainly unimpressed by my sense of adventure.

“I was lucky to get away with just cross words from my mother as well as an extra-long bath. Certainly things could have been more sinister,” Alma said.

As we wrap up 2018 the heart-breaking constant of farm safety and farm tragedies remains. As of October 26, 60% of all workplace accidents were on a farm. At that time 17 families have been left behind, 17 communities mourning a loss.

“So if I could ask Santa for anything it would be to make 2019 a safer one on our farms. I understand the worries with profits, getting labour and livestock management, but to be honest none of those things matter if the farmer is no longer there,” said Alma.

“Many of us have heard of the 12 days of Christmas and advent calendars will be done and dusted come December 25. This is why AgriKids is having its own version: ’11 days of a farm safe Christmas’.

“Tips and advice will be shared over social media in the run-up to the new year, all in a bid to make 2019 the catalyst year for change.”

The AgriKids ’11 days of a farm-safe Christmas’:

Day 1:
Make sure children never travel alone to the farm. It’s the holidays. Your little ones will be home from school and at greater risk of venturing to the farm on their own. Warn them to keep away and only to visit with a grown up and when the big jobs are done.

Day 2:
Be safe, be seen. Wear high visibility clothing in the darkened evenings and early mornings. High visibility accessories make great stocking fillers.

Day 3:
Adequate lighting is essential in areas used after dark. Yesterday, we spoke about wearing high visibility. Make sure you too can see by lighting up darkened areas around your farm and sheds.

Day 4:
Farmyards should be kept tidy and free from any hazards that may cause you to trip and fall.

Prevent the preventable by tidying up. Keep loose baling twine in a dedicated bag or barrel. Ladders and brushes can be lined up and/or secured against the wall.

Day 5:
Take your time. It’s Christmas Day. It’s an exciting morning and you will be anxious to get the jobs done on the farm and get home. But it’s Christmas Day all day. So get home safe and sound.

Day 6:
Set up a dedicated play area – farmyards are not playgrounds. After Santa’s visit there will be many new toys. It’s a great opportunity to set up a play area for children away from the farm.

Day 7:
When on the farm, use it as an opportunity to explain what the various warning signs mean.

The colours and symbols all mean specific things. Yellow and black combine in a warning sign; blue is mandatory, you have to do it, and red is prohibitive, you can’t do it.

Day 8:
With children, explain the warning signs with animal behaviour. Knowing the behaviours of animals when they may be feeling stressed or aggressive will help keep you and your family safe. A freshly calved cow is now our most dangerous farm animal. Use a flattened hand when feeding a horse or donkey.

Day 9:
Set age-appropriate jobs. All our children love the farm, but certain jobs must remain out of bounds until they are old enough and competent enough to carry out the role. Check out a handy tool developed in the US by Cultivate Safety to understand more on what farm jobs are suitable for children at every age: www.cultivatesafety.org.

Day 10:
Keep your first-aid kit stocked and accessible and know the important numbers. In case of an accident, keep a list of emergency numbers and make sure everyone knows the Eircode or postcode. These codes allow an ambulance to find you as quickly as possible.

Day 11- It’s New Year’s Eve:
Start the new year by setting the farm safety example on your farm. Wear protective clothing, explain the dangers and remind passengers to buckle up.