Children risk serious injury or death if they play on farms

CHILDREN who play on East Devon farms this summer suffer the risk of serious injury or even death, according to a warning message.

CHILDREN who play on East Devon farms this summer suffer the risk of serious injury or even death, according to a warning message.

Rural insurer Cornish Mutual is urging children to stay away from farms as it launches a new safety awareness drive.

Slurry pits, large machinery, farm animals and grain stores are some of the dangers being highlighted by the firm with figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showing that over the last ten years 31 children under the age of 16 years old were killed in the agricultural sector, as well as a further 12 between the ages of 16 and 18. Many have also suffered serious injuries such as leg amputations or serious burns.

The most common causes of death and major injury include falling from vehicles, being hit by moving vehicles or objects, contact with machinery, falls from height, drowning or contact with animals.

"Agriculture has one of the highest fatal accident rates of all industries in the South West," said Philip Wilson, of Cornish Mutual.

"As farms are homes as well as workplaces, children are often around and every year there are serious injuries or sometimes tragically deaths. With the warm weather, there will be many youngsters playing outside during the summer months and farms can be a real draw."

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Ian Shears (pictured) who runs an organic farm near offers educational visits to schools and is aware of the importance of reducing risks to children: "At Highfield Farm we've looked carefully at every area to reduce risk as much as possible whilst still letting the children enjoy their farm visit.

"We have created safe areas where children can have their lunch with no hazards like machinery or traffic. We always talk to the children and teachers as soon as they arrive about safety.

"Overall I've found children to be very sensible about safety, but its essential children are supervised by a responsible adult at all times. We also like to ensure that we have the right insurance so that if the worst were to happen we know we have the right cover."

Roger Nourish, head of the Health and Safety Executive's agricultural sector, said: "Most of us don't even want to contemplate the death of a child. The fact is tractors, quad bikes and children just don't mix. With weeks of school holidays ahead - it is time to ask: "How am I going to keep my children, and any friends or visitors, safe when they are on the farm?

"Don't think for one minute that an accident couldn't happen on your farm. It only takes a second for an accident to happen. Yet, only a few seconds thinking time can make the difference and prevent the needless loss of young lives.