Practice farm safety with kids

As any parent knows, kids can be curious creatures. While such curiosity is a good thing and a character trait most parents encourage, responsible parenting involves recognizing a child's inquisitive nature and taking steps to prevent that curiosity from causing injury.

Perhaps nowhere is that more necessary than in rural regions, in particular on the country's farms. Children often have an abundance of things to sink their curious teeth into on the average farm, further increasing the likelihood of injury.

Though no parent wants to quell their child's zest for exploration, there are steps today's farmers can take to ensure such curiosity doesn't end with a trip to the emergency room.

• Keep certain areas off limits: While a great benefit of living in a rural area is fresh air and open space, giving kids the chance to roam wherever their hearts and minds take them is dangerous. Thanks to tools, machinery and even farm animals, several areas on the farm can be quite dangerous to kids. Make sure you establish a play area for your children, and make it an area that's close to the house. Should kids get hurt and need immediate attention, the close proximity to the house will minimize the chance of serious injury. In addition, if kids are kept close by, you'll be more likely to notice when they wander off.

• Perform regular inspections of the farm: Even setting aside designated play areas won't stop kids from eventually wandering around the farm. To minimize the chance of injury for when such exploratory missions go into effect, check the condition of the farm and tool areas on a regular basis. Lock all gates at the end of the day and keep power tools or other potentially dangerous machinery in locked sheds. Also, at the end of each work day, ask anyone who worked on the farm that day if they noticed anything potentially harmful to children. This can include a jagged edge on a fence or discarded equipment that has yet to be removed. Any such materials are bound to grab the attention of a curious youngster, so make it known that all equipment needs to be put away and anything out of the ordinary needs to be reported come the end of the day.

• Don't give kids too much to handle: Another great part of living and working on a farm is the chance to take your kids to work with you and teach them your craft. However, giving them too much to do can be dangerous. Kids should be given appropriate tasks that don't put them in any danger. For younger kids, feeding small animals around the farm can be a great way to instill responsibility while teaching them part of what being a farmer is all about. For older kids, keep them away from any machinery that's too big, and let them know to tell you if they're experiencing any difficulties with certain tasks. Also, it's important to keep kids' workdays shorter than adults', even in seasons where they don't have school. Kids tire more easily than adults, and need more rest as well.

• Make sure everything is off at the end of the day: Table saws and other machinery need to be turned off whenever they're not being used. Consider removing plugs from the outlets entirely for machinery that kids can reach, and make sure any hydraulics are turned off, too. Also, remove the keys from tractors and other machinery that kids could climb up on. Any tools that can be locked away, whether it's in a shed, cabinet or even by locking a garage or barn, should be locked up, especially if your kids are younger.

• Keep kids off machinery you're using: While it's fun for kids to go to work with Mom or Dad and possibly sit in their lap for a ride on the tractor or backhoe, it's also putting them at a very serious and unnecessary risk. Keep kids off machinery and away from animals at feeding time.

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2009-11-26 digital edition

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