Farms can be a fun place to grow up. They have sunshine, fresh air and lots of room to play. A farm is also a place of work; work which involves machinery that can be dangerous. This is especially so if someone doesn’t know how to be safe, and even more so when children are present on the farm.
Here are some sobering statistics:
- In 2012, there were approximately 2.2 million farms in the United States1
- More than 955,400 youth lived on farms in 2012 and almost half (49%) worked on their farm2
- About 258,800 non-resident youth were hired in agriculture in 2012, up from 230,400 in 20092
- About every three days, a child dies in an agriculture-related incident3
- Of the leading sources of fatalities among all youth, 25% involved machinery, 17% involved motor vehicles (includes ATVs), and 16% were drownings3
- Among working youth, vehicles and machinery accounted for 73% of deaths4
- Every day, about 38 children are injured in an agriculture-related incident2
- In 2012, an estimated 7,780 household youth were injured on a farm and 80% of them were not working when the injury occurred2
- Leading sources of nonfatal injuries are surfaces (falls), animals and vehicles2
- From 1998 to 2012, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries per 1,000 farms (includes youth who live on, visit, and are hired to work on farms) declined by 61% and the rate of injuries per 1,000 household youth (those living on farms) declined by 57% 2
- While overall injury rates are declining, farm injuries among children under 10 years are increasing2
The inescapable conclusion is that children raised on farms are exposed to injury!
Why are children more likely to be injured on a farm? With the whole family working on the farm, constant supervision is difficult. Children also are engaged in work on the farm. Ideally, the work is age appropriate. However, it is possible they may engage in work that is not age appropriate. How can we keep our children safe on the farm?
- Children should not be allowed to wander alone on the farm. This may require a fenced play area near the house
- As the child grows, assign age appropriate tasks. Train them in the task and provide supervision
- Teach the children that farm animals are not pets, especially if the animals are cows or horses
- Do not carry a child while operating any farm machinery
- When farm equipment is not in use turn it off, lower any hydraulics and remove the keys
- Children should not be allowed in equipment storage areas, livestock barns or grain bins
- Keep children away from objects they can climb: Windmills, grain wagons, electrical wires, augers and elevators are examples
- Block any permanently attached ladders and store movable ladders when done
Children have to learn how to be safe, just as they have to learn to walk. The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, located in Marshfield, WI, is dedicated “to enhance the health and safety of all children exposed to hazards associated with agricultural work and rural environments.” This organization provides a wealth of information to help farm parents to determine appropriate jobs for children based on their age and provide detailed information on age specific work guidelines.
Kids living on farms need to know what it takes to be safe. One of the leading causes of injury is the result of farm children, ages 10-14, taking on a job or task for which they are not physically able to handle. As a farm parent, what can we do to help protect our children? Here are a few suggestions:
- Instill into the children the need to listen to parents or other supervisors
- Don’t have the children work without supervision until they are physically and mature enough to master the assigned task
- Be sure your children let you know where they are going
- Have your children look around the farm. Ask them about the equipment they see. Ask them how many are smaller than they are. Enforce a “do not play on” and a “do not ride on” policy, even if an adult is present
- Teach your children to respect the farm animals. Remind them that farm animals are unpredictable and not likely to be friendly around people. Especially cows and horses. Children need to be taught how to behave around animals.
- Keep poisons, chemicals and fertilizers in locked storage facilities
- Keep children away from manure pits and ponds. Be sure all pits and ponds are fenced for added protection
- It is never too early to teach your children how to make a call to “9-1-1”
Farm safety is important to all farm families. We want our children to be able to celebrate farm life. It is the responsibility of parents to begin to teach farm safety early on in the child’s life. While we can’t make a farm 100% childproof, we can guide our children through the farm workplace. We can protect them from the obvious hazards. We can provide age appropriate work experience with supervision. We can set them on a path to become a safety-conscious farmer in the future!
1. USDA, NASS publications: Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations, 2012 Summary, February 2013. Available at:
2. NIOSH (2013). Analyses of the 2012 Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey (CAIS). Morgantown WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research. Unpublished.
3. Goldcamp M, Hendricks KJ, Meyers JR. (2004). Farm Fatalities to youth 1995-2000: A comparison by age groups.
Journal of Safety Research. Vol. 35(2): 151-157.
4. Hard DL, Myers JR (2006). Fatal work-related injuries in the agriculture production sector among youth in the United States,
1992-2002. J Agromedicine. Vol. 11:57-65.
North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks: http://www.nagcat.org/nagcat/
This site is a collection of guidelines designed to assist parents and others in assigning age-appropriate tasks for children ages 7–16 who live or work on farms and ranches across North America. The guidelines are based on an understanding of childhood growth and development, agricultural practices, principles of childhood injury, and agricultural and occupational safety. Voluntary use of the guidelines can help parents and others make informed decisions about appropriate tasks for youth.
U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers’ YouTube farm safety videos:
Right from the Start – Youth Recount Their Injuries:
Right from The Start – Dairy Cows part 1
Right from The Start – Dairy Cows part 2
Right from the Start – Safety Basics
Feeding and Other Safety Issues: Dairy Safety Training Part I, Section 3
Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.