Child safety

Article by Bernardine Cooney, HSE’s Agriculture and Food SectoBernadine Cooney                                                                                  

Children and young people are still being exposed to unmanaged risks and hazards on farms. This article explains why and how to minimise unnecessary accidents.

Over the past 10 years, 31 children and young people under the age of 16 have died in work-related incidents in agriculture, as well as a further 12 between the ages of 16 and 18.

In the same 10-year period, many more children will have suffered injuries such as leg amputations or serious burns.

Children and young people live on, work at and visit farms. We want children and young people on farms to develop their love for farming, but this must be done safely. We can’t escape the fact that agriculture is the industry with the highest incidence rate of work-related fatal injuries. Does this really have to mean dangerous jobs for boys and girls?

Many of the deaths happened to younger children at work with their parents. They occurred as a consequence of work activity rather than the child doing the work themselves.

The messages from HSE about how to keep children safe on the farm don’t change. While these tragedies are keenly felt by the families involved and throughout their local community, it is a national tragedy that they are still happening. The stark reason for this is simple: Children and young people are still being exposed to the same unmanaged hazards and risks.

In a recent court case following a child’s death from an agricultural accident, the judge called for a clear message to be sent to the farming industry emphasising that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

What are the regulations?

The current regulations are called Prevention of Accidents to Children in Agriculture Regulations 1998 (PACAR).

The legal requirements set out in PACAR are not new. They date back to duties to protect children under the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956. The 1956 Act evolved in turn from agricultural law dating back to the 19th century, so this should come as no surprise to anyone involved in agriculture.

There are two specific legal provisions. These set out the duties of prohibition on driving vehicles and machines and prohibition on children riding on machines, vehicles or implements.

This means that:

  • It is illegal to allow a child under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural self-propelled machines (such as tractors) and other specified farm machinery while it is being used in the course of agricultural operations or is going to or from the site of such operations.
  • No child under 13 years old can be carried on a tractor, self-propelled agricultural machine, or a machine or implement mounted on, towed or propelled by a tractor or other vehicle, including a machine or agricultural implement drawn by a horse.
  • So, whatever criterion parents may use to justify their child’s presence in a cab, if you do so, you are breaking the law.
  • Children are not safe simply because they are in a cab – they can and do fall from cabs through doors which open accidentally, rear windows, or during emergencies. Their health or hearing could also be damaged. When they get out of the cab they are vulnerable to being run over by the machine as it moves off.
  • Children can also present a risk to operators when the latter leave the driving seat (eg to open gates) by working controls such as parking brakes, hydraulic levers etc. They can also distract the operator’s attention in an emergency.
  • Children under 13 years old may only legally ride on a trailer, or on a load carried by a trailer, if there are adequate means, such as edge protection, to prevent them falling from it. You should adopt the same standards if you carry older children.                                                                                                                                          source:


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