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HomeFarming News‘Allowing children to drive and operate machines is simply asking for trouble’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Allowing children to drive and operate machines is simply asking for trouble’

The Livestock and Meat Commission has highlighted the importance of keeping children safe on farms.

The body has stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, in a very stark way, the need for everyone to make protecting their own health an absolute priority.

But for those working on farms, maintaining their own safety and those of their loved ones is equally important.

That is the message its chief executive, Ian Stevenson, recently conveyed following a meeting of Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) affiliate members.

He acknowledged that it is “well documented” that farmer stress and anxiety may lead to a range of negative consequences.

These include:

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  • Mental and physical health issues;
  • A decline in job satisfaction;
  • A reduction in performance;
  • Fatigue and the most serious consequence of all: a greater predisposition to farm-related accidents.
Farm deaths

Stevenson stated that farming continues to rank as one of the most dangerous professions that any person can aspire to undertake.

He added that “recorded farm deaths are important headline figures, which should give everyone food for thought”.

In 2020, authorities in Northern Ireland recorded a total of four fatalities (ranging from 44 to 66 years-old) on farms.

The following year the number of recorded deaths increased to seven, with accidents involving people from 21 to 92.

However, Stevenson highlighted that the actual fatality rate only represents “the tip of the iceberg”, where the total number of farm accidents taking place in Northern Ireland is concerned.

“Those involved in many of these incidents have suffered life-changing injuries. And this has impacted severely on entire farming families.”

Therefore, he believes stakeholder organisation within agriculture must double down and “do everything possible” to communicate and demonstrate “effective” health and safety best practice to farmers and all family members.

Children on farms 

He stated that the good weather of the past week will have seen farm machinery of every shape and size utilised as farmers push to get slurry out, fertiliser sown, fields ploughed, and to carry out all other seasonal jobs in a timely fashion.

Continuing, he said: “And no doubt, children of all ages will want to be part of it. But common sense must be brought to bear on this matter.”

“There is an acceptance on many farms that children will be safe enough driving machinery if they are off-road and on their own farms.”

“This is a myth. Allowing children to drive and operate machines that they are neither licensed nor insured to be in control of is simply asking for trouble.”

“In a very real way, it is putting young people in harm’s way. I am very aware of the fact that farming families can be under real pressure at this time of the year.”

“But taking undue risks should never be part of the decision-making process entered into within any farming business,” he concluded.

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