Projects – populations at risk
There are a number of key at-risk populations in agriculture, most significantly new and inexperienced workers, children and older farmers.
Target areas include:
- Child and young people
- Safe Play Areas on Farm (SPA)
- Older farmers
- Rural Indigenous Workers
Child safety on farms
Being raised on a farm is perceived as a good lifestyle, but poses many potential hazards. Children are at high risk of coming in contact with farm structures (dams, water storages), farm vehicles (quads, utes, motorcycles), mobile farm machinery (tractors) and animals (horses, cattle), all of which may cause fatal injury.
Farms are great places for children to grow and develop, when we create a supportive environment, but safety for children on farms continues to be a major concern.
Child Farm Injury
Approximately 15 children under 15 years are fatally injured on an Australian farm every year and many more are seriously injured requiring hospitalisation.
The major causes of child deaths and injuries on farms are dams, quads, tractors, farm vehicles, motorcycles and horses. Age and developmental characteristics also place children at greater risk.
A recent study (Peachey et al) found that of the on-farm fatalities for the 2001-20019 period:
- Children (0-14yrs) make up almost 15% of farm injury deaths, around 73% are male and children aged 0-4 constituted over half of all child deaths.
- Incidents most frequently involved farm residents (68%), with almost half occurring on a weekend and around one in every three cases involved a visitor.
- Seven agents (water bodies, quad, tractors, utes, cars, motorbikes and horses) accounted for 75% of all cases
- Water bodies responsible for over 31% of deaths, with the majority in those aged 0-4 years with dams the principal locality.
- Quads represented 15% of cases with those aged 10-14 years representing nearly half of all cases. Children in the youngest age group frequently passengers and farm visitors involved in 43% of these incidents. Rollover occurred in over 80% of all cases.
- Incidents involving tractors were dominated by those aged 0-4 years and were a result of being transported as a passenger and falling off, or being runover when around a tractor.
- Were known more than half (56.7%) had no active supervision by an adult at the time of the incident.
- Defined a non-significant reduction in the annual number of on-farm child injury fatalities.
For non-fatal injury of children on farms, over 2000 children were hospitalised due to a farm related injury in the 2010-2015 period. Motorbikes and quads predominated, accounting for 42% of all cases. The leading agents were motorbikes/quads for males and horses foe females (AIHW 2018).
While in the past there were reductions of toddler drowning -particularly a reduction of dam drownings on farms was halved, figures remain stagnant. Consequently, drowning is still the number one cause of child farm fatality in Australia.
Priorities for Child safety on Farms
Priorities for child safety on farms, based on research of effective solutions are for farm families to:
- Have a securely fenced house yard (safe play area) for children to play, unless an adult can closely supervise them on the farm; and ensure children:
- Always wear seatbelts and restraints when in cars, utes and trucks
- Do not allow children to ride on tractors, quads of any size or in the back of utes and
- Always wear helmets when riding bikes and horses
Whilst these are short-list priorities, families still need to identify and address other hazards and risks specific to their farm. Controlling these risks should commence with reducing hazards and designing for safety where possible. See below for further information.
The following publications developed by the Centre relate to key child injury risks on farm and best practice safety recommendations.
- Child Safety on Farms Information Sheet (Checklist)
- Get Going. Moving Kids Safely on Farms (booklet)
- Childcare options for farming families (factsheet)
- Child Safety on Farms Guideline (booklet)
- CSOF powerpoint presentation
- Case studies on child safety from farms
- Ripper II Educational resource for primary schools
A number of promotional items are also available on request, from AgHealth, such as the Child Safety on Farms Checklist, Horseplay poster, Child Safety on Farms Poster and Child Safety on Farms Summary Leaflet. Please contact 02 6882 1486 to requested resources.
Research Reports relating to child safety can be found on the Projects & Reports > Research Reports page.
Safe Play Areas (SPA) on farm
The most common situation is that a toddler wanders away from supervision un-noticed, finding their way into a farm dam or into the path of machinery. They may be noticed missing only after a few minutes. A securely fenced house yard, supported by active supervision, is one of the best ways to help prevent a toddler drowning – or wandering into the path of farm vehicles and machinery.
A Safe Play Area (SPA) is the idea to provide an access barrier between toddlers and farm hazards – much like a pool fence does, but in reverse. Whilst it is good to aim toward pool standard fencing (Australian Standard AS 1926.1 – 2007) this may not always be possible.
The principle is to make it difficult for young children to leave the house yard without an accompanying adult. All family members and visitors need to be alert to keep the area secure as well (eg. ensure gates are kept closed). Fences themselves need to be resistant to a child climbing through or over them (eg. solid or vertical rail, no footholes, 1.2 -1.5 m high, low ground clearance).
Having an interesting yard with play items such as sandpits and open-areas for ball play, can help as well. The Safe Play Area Resource (see link above), provides good ideas for keeping kids safe, active and engaged from a child development point of view.
No supervision is perfect and there is no perfectly secure house yard fence. However, a combination of safe play areas with close and active supervision will help reduce the risk of toddler drownings and other farm injury to young children on farms and rural properties.
Refer to below resources for further information:
Who is most at risk of drowning on farms?
- Children under five years accounted for three-quarters of children who drowned on farms. Apart from dams, younger children also drowned in creeks, troughs, dips and channels. Toddlers often wandered away from the home un-noticed.
- 83% of children who drowned on farms (2001-2019) were male. Around a quarter were visitors to the farm.
How else can we prevent drowning on farms?
It is advisable to check for other water hazards near the house – and eliminate access to these where possible. This might include covering old tanks and dips, placing mesh in water troughs – and fencing backyard pools.
Supervision, when out and about on the farm, needs to be close and active enough for a toddler to “hold my hand”. This is consistent with the advice of major early childhood and water safety agencies. In addition, water familiarization and teaching children to swim from an early age is advisable. Learning resuscitation skills is also a water safety essential.
What about preventing other sorts of child injury on farms?
Drowning accounts for around 30% of child farm deaths, with dams the most common water body. In fact, dams alone were responsible for 20% of all child farm deaths. After dams, quad bikes (15%) and farm vehicles (ute, motorbike and car) were the next most common agents of child fatality on farms (2001-2019). For quad bikes, (riders and passengers) – one third were under five years of age; and for farm vehicles (cars-utes), half were under five years of age.
Three times as many children were killed off quads than two wheel motorbikes on farms. Research suggests this is because riders / passengers are more likely to be pinned under an upturned quad, sustaining chest or abdominal crush injuries.
A fenced house yard or safe play area, can also help prevent young children wandering away unsupervised into the farm workplace, the path of vehicles and machinery too. For children of all ages, AgHealth recommends farm families adopt the following child safety practices on their farm, as a matter of priority:
- Always ensure children wear seatbelts in cars, utes and trucks
- Do not allow children to ride on tractors, quad bikes or on the back or utes, and
- Always ensure children wear helmets riding farm bikes and horses.
For further information or for a copy of any resources please contact:
Phone: 02 6882 1486
Across Australia, between 2001 and 2015, those in the 50+ years category accounted for almost 50% (n=610) of all on-farm non-intentional injury deaths.
The Australian Farming Community is an ageing workforce, and farmers over the age of 50 years are at greater risk of falls injury. Consequently, while farmers continue to work well beyond what would be considered “normal” retirement age in other sectors, there is a need to identify improved ways to balance the extensive benefits of older farmers continuing to be actively involved in work with their personal safety. Specific issues, which are potentially related to an increased injury risk in older farmers, revolve around the normal physiological and cognitive changes associated with aging. These include observed reductions in strength, flexibility, and balance, plus issues with sight, hearing, and memory.
As aging occurs, there is only a certain extent to which one can effectively impact on this process. Approaches that maintain good physical health
and cognitive stimulation are clearly important; nonetheless, there will be a reduction in capacity as a result of aging.
The following publications developed by AgHealth relate to assisting farmers make farmwork easier and safer as they get older.
- Great Ideas Bank (only available through workshops)
- Preventing Falls for older farmers
Rural Indigenous Workers
The largest proportion of Indigenous people working in agriculture, work in the grain, sheep and beef cattle farming industry.
Injury is the second leading cause of death among Indigenous people and is three times the rate of non-indigenous Australians. The three main categories of non-intentional injury deaths are transport deaths, drowning and poisoning.
Acknowledging the high rates of injury in indigenous workers, a project was developed as part of the National Farm Injury Prevention Program to specifically target indigenous farm workers given this group make up a significant proportion of seasonal workers in some areas of the country and on remote cattle farms.
To aim of the program was to engage Aboriginal farm/cattle property workers a in farm safety programs with appropriately targeted and culturally relevant and effective injury prevention resources and strategies.
Rural Worker Safety Induction – A practical guide for employers: Indigenous Worker Discussion Guide