Dangers of playing on farms highlighted at Highland Show

With Scotland's schools starting to break up for the holidays this week, the Highland show was used to issue a timely reminder to farmers and crofters '“ and anyone planning to visit a farm '“ about the dangers of letting children play on-farm during the summer.

Handlers hold their sheep during the inter breed competition at the Royal Highland Show 2017. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Handlers hold their sheep during the inter breed competition at the Royal Highland Show 2017. Picture: Ian Rutherford

With the show seeing an estimated 30,000 children through its gates over the course of its four day run, NFU Scotland took the opportunity to remind both kids and parents that while farms can be great fun, it is important to remember that they are a working environment rather than a playground.

Each year the statistics show that children continue to account for a considerable proportion of the industry’s unacceptably high on-farm death rate, and the union warned that it was important to establish the ground rules about what young people can and can’t do on the farm.

A prime consideration in avoiding accidents highlighted by the union was keeping children away from farm machinery and moving vehicles – and a reminder was issued that children under 13 years old, including those born and reared on a farm, shouldn’t drive or operate tractors or other farm machinery.

“Neither should children under 13 ride as passengers on tractors, ATVs or other farm machinery,” said union vice-president Martin Kennedy.

“Most precautions revolve around common sense,” he continued, “things like ensuring drivers have a clear view of corners of their vehicles – and installing mirrors to increase visibility if necessary.”

He also advised that slurry pits and tanks should be securely fenced and made inaccessible to prevent children from getting near the area.

“We all know that kids love to play in and around farms and we probably have fond memories of doing so ourselves – and it is fantastic to get youngsters out to see what is going on.

“But we’ve probably all had near misses ourselves and we know that a slightly different outcome could have led to tragedy for both the family and the business – so we should all help to make sure that children and young adults aren’t exposed to these sorts of risks.”

He said that threats were particularly high during times of peak workload such as silage-making and harvest time when the desire to push on with the job could lead to people continuing to work when they felt tired and when their concentration might lapse:

“We all know that we should stop before this happens, but it is often in a farmer’s nature to push on when things are running behind or the weather shows signs of breaking.

“It pays to stop and think these things over before making the sort of slip that we could spend the rest of our lives regretting,” said Kennedy.