It’s a busy time on farms this summer, with hay and silage making and lots of other activities, but remember to think safety first, especially where children are about.

IFA appeal: Farm safely this summer

THE dangers associated with working on a farm is why IFA runs a Farm Safety Week each year.

Yesterday (Monday) marked the start of the ninth annual Farm Safety Week in Ireland and the UK, an initiative led by the Irish Farmers Association here and by Yellow Wellies UK.

The message for this year is: Rethink Safety, which aims to encourage a deeper awareness of everyday risks on farms and the practical steps needed to reduce risk.

Farm Safety Week (FSW) is supported by several agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee members.

The week is an integral part of the annual calendar as it puts a focus on how farm families can continually improve their approach to farm safety.

As the summer days get longer, temperatures (hopefully) begin to rise, and children are on their school holidays, Jarlath Walsh, Mayo IFA county chairman, describes how this time of year presents its own particular risks on farms.

He has outlined the steps we should all take to ensure the entire family stays safe on the farm this summer.

Keeping Children Safe on the Farm

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 risk.

Farms can be family homes as well as workplaces, with children often present. Tragically, between 2011 and 2020, in Ireland, 21 children lost their lives due to farm accidents.

Summer is a hazardous 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. Still, 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, so it is vital to educate children on safety and risks from an early age.

Every possible step must be taken to reduce the number of fatalities 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 form good farm safety habits, that lesson will be with them for a lifetime.

Top tips to keep children safe

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 must not ride as passengers on ATVs.

Children between the ages of 7 and 16 may ride on a tractor provided the tractor is fitted with a properly designed and fitted passenger seat (with seat belts).

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.

For more information on farm safety visit the IFA's dedicated Farm Safety Hub on rm-safety-hub/