Many children live on or visit farms and rural areas. Children in rural areas are at risk for different types of injuries because of:
- farm animals
- open bodies of water
- farm chores
Children can get hurt because they don’t sense danger or know how to stay away from hazards. As children grow and develop, they get stronger and learn to think things through better. Your child should not do any activity that he or she is not physically and developmentally ready for, even if raised on a farm.
Adults can help lower the risk of a child getting hurt by knowing what to expect at different stages of development. By your own actions, show your child the safest way to do things and how to follow safety rules. To keep your child safe, make sure he or she is always:
- closely supervised
- in a safe place
- doing age-appropriate activities
Make sure your child has a safe area to play in with protected boundaries (e.g., fence). Put up barriers to keep your child away from hazards (e.g., swamps, dugouts, septic tanks, wells, lakes, grain bins, sand pits). Make sure there is good air flow in root cellars to avoid suffocation hazards. Mark electric fences with a flag or sign and teach your child to stay away from these areas. Make sure your child doesn't play on or near farm machinery.
Keep farm equipment safe and stored in a locked shed. When not in use, make sure machinery always has the parking brake on and take the keys out of the ignition. When operating farm machinery, wear snug-fitting clothing, tie back long hair, and don’t wear a scarf. Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs when operating machinery. Keep your child out of grain wagons and grain storage areas.
Don't carry passengers on farm equipment (even the back of a pick-up truck).
The Canadian Paediatric Society states that firearms should not be kept in homes or environments where children and adolescents live or play. If you do keep firearms in your home, keep them in a locked storage case. Make sure they are not loaded and safety clips are on. Lock ammunition in a different storage case, away from firearms. Teach your child the dangers of firearms.
Don’t let your child handle firearms unless he or she is trained by a certified instructor.
Have a regular routine to check and maintain horse riding equipment. When working with or riding a horse, make sure your child wears an approved equestrian helmet. While riding, make sure your child is
supervised by an experienced rider.
For more information about equestrian safety go to
Parachute: Preventing Injuries for Horseback Riding.
Stay with and supervise your child when he or she enters an animal pen.
Teach your child to treat livestock with respect and not to startle animals.
If you burn anything in a rural area, use a fire-safe container with a grate on top.
Only responsible adults should oversee a burning fire.
When refueling machinery outside, do it away from open flames or lit smoking materials (e.g., cigarette).
Chores on the Farm
Have your child do chores and activities that are appropriate for his or her age and stage of development. To prevent injury on a farm, make sure your child:
- is supervised
- is always in a safe place
- has the right training
- always wears the right safety gear
- does not operate farm machinery (e.g., tractors, ATVs) until 16 years old
If you show your child how to do a job, it is easier to learn. A responsible adult (who knows how to do the job) must always supervise until a child can do the job safely. You can reduce your supervision over time once a child can consistently do the task safely.
Before you ask your child to do chores on the farm, think about how old he or she is.
North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) has suggestions for the right chores for children (7 to 16). Remember, all children are different.
To prevent injuries, think about your child’s size, strength, and endurance. Your child must not carry more than 10 to 15 percent of his or her body weight. Don’t let your child do anything with repetitive reaching up. Never let your child work until he or she is exhausted. Before deciding on your child’s chores, think about your child and these factors:
- attention span
- comfort with heights
- comfort with animals
- speed and reaction time
- side (peripheral) vision
- can use equipment
- allergies (e.g., insects)
- can be responsible
- can work independently
- hand/eye coordination
- takes risks (is impulsive)
- remembers details well
- is coordinated (can use both feet and both hands at the same time)
- knows about hazards and what to do
Even a coordinated child or teen can be clumsy while having a growth spurt.
Keeping a Safe Workplace
Keep a safe workplace to prevent injuries. On the farm, make sure the:
- machinery works well
- machinery and farm vehicles have safety features (e.g., guards and shields, rollover bars, seat belts)
- tools are the right size for the child doing the job (e.g., ladders, cutting tools, brooms)
- hot water tank is set at 49 °C or 120 °F or lower
You can also prevent injuries on the farm by making sure you have:
- nonslip surfaces
- good indoor air flow
- places to wash hands
- no electrical hazards
- a safe, secure climbing structure
- barriers between animals and your child
Your child needs to wear safety gear including a fitted respirator, work boots, eye protection, ear protection, gloves, snug-fitting clothes (e.g., pants, long-sleeved shirts), a tie for long hair, a helmet, and sunscreen.
When working on the farm, your child must have a way to call for help (e.g., cell phone) if needed. You must also have an emergency plan with a planned escape route.
When your child works, make sure he or she takes breaks and drinks lots of fluids.