Farm families have a long tradition of being multi-generational operations, where kids work alongside their parents. While it is important, and often unavoidable, to involve kids in the farm, it is equally important to remember that they are kids. Kids are impulsive, impatient and curious. Often non-farm safety tips sheets or booklets say that a workplace is no place for kids, and that is the end of the conversation. However, I know that is not realistic on our farm, and I am guessing that our farm is not unique. So I would suggest a more realistic approach to educating kids and keeping them safe while they participate in farm life. Here are some ideas of how to keep kids, and everyone, safe.
1. Dress for Success - Dress for Safety
High Visibility clothing – We all have to get dressed before we go outside (I hope!) so we may as well choose clothing that is easy to see. Put on your reflective gear or bright orange, green or pink t-shirts or hats. Those of you who did the math after my birthday last week know that I am a child of the ‘80s so I have no problem bringing back the neon! Also, remember that size matters. I love hand-me-downs, but kids clothes that are too big are catch or trip hazards.
Cover your feet – “Summer feet” are a wonderful part of childhood, and there is a place for running around bare foot. However, when you are by equipment or in fields closed-toe shoes are a must.
2. Communication – Knowing what others are thinking and doing keeps us all safe
Know who is in your space – when you enter a work site, know who is there with you and what jobs they are performing. In our yard, we set out big orange pylons by the driveway any time the girls and I are outside so that everyone knows to be sure to include us in their headcount as they move around the yard.
Work time – The girls and I spend a lot of time talking about when it is safe to visit dad and when dad is busy working. We have to continually talk about when a space is a play-space and when it is a work-space, because in reality we have spaces that function as both.
3. Team – When we are working together, we can work safer
Ask for help - Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. This can be counter-culture to traditional farmer folk-lore, so it needs to be an intentional part of your team’s safety culture. Kids who see their role-models working together in order to be safe are more likely to make safe choices themselves.
Be real – Adults sometimes forget that kids are kids. In an effort to teach kids life lessons about responsibility, the cycle of life, hard work, dedication or any number of other important values we can forget to let kids be kids. Of course, working on the family farm is a great way to teach values and life lessons. However, adults are the ones who need to step back and set the parameters around safety. We need to set “future farmers” big and small, up for success, and safety, by asking them to help in ways that are realistic - physically and developmentally.
We all love our kids and we love to farm - working safely is a way to protect the way of life we love for the next generation.
Past safety posts:
Safety Teresa strikes again October 3, 2017
Kids and Farm Safety April 11, 2017