Children play an active role on many farms and ranches, but it is the responsibility of parents, caregivers, or supervisors to assign them age-appropriate tasks, restrict access to work areas, give easy-to-understand instructions, provide personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain equipment with operational safety devices, and provide supervision to reduce the risk of injury or death. The most common causes of agricultural-related fatalities for children are machinery or tractor accidents, drowning, and motor vehicle accidents, including accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATV). Most nonfatal injuries result from falls or incidents with livestock.
Because rates of physical and mental development can vary from child to child, understanding how children develop is critical to identifying age-appropriate tasks for them. A child’s size, strength, motor skills, and coordination are all factors in determining whether he or she is physically able to complete certain tasks. But you must also determine whether a child has the cognitive skills to understand and follow instructions, make good decisions, and understand that unsafe actions may have consequences that lead to injury or death. Click here to view Children and Safety on the Farm, a publication furnished by Penn State Extension that provides a comprehensive chart of the developmental characteristics of children from birth through age 18 and offers details about how children develop, common causes of injury or death for each age group, strategies to prevent accidents, and appropriate work tasks.
(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)
Children are eager to work on the farm or ranch alongside other family or team members. However, it is important to understand that each farm task has a certain level of risk associated with it. Children working on a farm or ranch need the appropriate physical and cognitive maturity to complete any assigned tasks. The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) guidelines are contained in a searchable database that enables you to identify a farm task and follow a checklist to determine a child’s ability to complete the task. Click here to be linked to the NAGCAT database to determine whether a farm task is appropriate for a child.
Age-appropriate tasks for children on farms and ranches. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63149/age-appropriate-tasks-for-children-on-farms-and-ranches.
2011 Fact Sheet: Childhood Agricultural Injuries. (2011) National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Retrieved from https://www3.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy///mcrf-centers-nfmc-nccrahs-chil....
Graham, L. & Oesterreich, L. (2004) Farm safety for young children. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=5097.
Murphy, D. & Hackett, K. (1997) Children and safety on the farm. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/ub030.pdf.
North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) guidelines. (1999) Retrieved from http://www.nagcat.org/nagcat/.
Schwab, C., Shutske, J., & Miller, L. (2001) Match age, abilities to farm chores. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=4994.
Youth agricultural safety. (2003) Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy/mcrf-centers-nfmc-resources-childr....