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Farming Matters: 'Nothing is worth the risk of your child being hurt on-farm'

What a fabulous upbringing my children have had with lots of space, freedom to play outside and the close bond that is unique to family farms, writes Rona Amiss.

I am so lucky they are keen to get involved and looking at farming in the future.

 

The eldest is studying hard, or so she tells me, coming to the end of her second year at Harper Adams. In the summer she starts her placement year, she is worried about her CV and interviews.

 

But what mum would want their children working in an industry with a fatal injury rate 18 times higher than any other industry? Latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive for 2017/2018 revealed 33 people were killed on farms – a horrific statistic.

 

When I was a young farmer there was very little safety training and I can easily remember times I was lucky not to get hurt.

 

I recently talked to Jane Gurney, a lady who is passionate about safety on farms and a mine of information and ideas about how to improve the terrible statistics.

 

Harry, Jane’s 19-year-old son, died in an avoidable incident caused by his employer’s attitude to safety; a waste of a beautiful life that should not have happened.

 

Her drive is part of changes that are occurring. Young Farmers and colleges are equipping their students with the knowledge of what is safe practice.

 

Harper Adams has spent time making sure its students have the confidence to keep themselves safe and recognise their well-being should be a priority.


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Attitude

 

However, I know that when I was 21 and trying to impress my work peers, I would have found it hard to refuse to do a job I was not sure about. So the change in attitude and knowledge will only result in a reduction of farm accidents if the older generation of managers and owners wake up and take notice.

 

The youngsters know their stuff, so respect them and learn from them.

 

Working together to make the farm safer is a no-brainer. It is something to be proud of and show how you can change for the better.

 

Having five children feels like mayhem is never far away. Farms are such lovely places for children, but who would let their children play on a building site nowadays? What bricklayer would take their young child to work with them? Yet we still have children on farms and children still die each year.

 

Some research suggests farmers are fatalistic and relish risk, but that is just nonsense. Why would anyone risk the life of their child? Simply saying ‘we have always done it that way’ is also unsupportable, and the law preventing children under 14 riding on farm machinery has been in place since 1958.

 

It is time to stop and think about how you are going to keep your child safe. My way was by strict rules that they did not break, a secure garden and if we both needed to work on the farm they were strapped in the car with copious sweets and books.

 

It is not easy. Farming is all-absorbing and the hours are unpredictable and long. Some families are lucky to have grandparents that help.

 

Many like ourselves live miles away from any free childcare, but however urgent the job is, nothing is worth the risk of your precious child becoming another statistic. Please stay safe this summer.

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