Children “often perceive the farm as a big playground filled with endless opportunities to explore” and parents need to plan accordingly, says a provincial farm safety youth co-ordinator.
“Unfortunately, they don’t always recognize the serious dangers that are often lurking around the farmyard,” said Janice Donkers. “Most rural parents want their kids to enjoy life on the farm, and making safety a priority is one way to ensure that. One of the most effective ways to increase safety on a farm is to create a safe play area for children.”
Here are some tips for a ‘hazard-free’ play area:
- Have boundaries or physical barriers such as fences, gates, or shrubs;
- Have continuous, competent supervision;
- Enforce safety rules for all children, and have additional explanations for visitors/friends;
- Have a safe distance from hazards such as vehicle traffic, machinery, unstable structures, or loud noises;
- Locate it away from open water and drowning hazards such as ponds, dugouts, or ditches;
- Provide adequate shade and shelter from wind, dust, or hazardous airborne particles;
- Separate children from farm animals with a strong protective barrier;
- Locate it close to first aid supplies, as well as handwashing and toilet facilities;
- Regularly maintain the area by mowing the grass and removing hazards such as poisonous plants, sharp rocks, and insect nests;
- Provide enough space to run and explore;
- Have safe and age-appropriate play equipment such as a sandbox, swings, and playhouse.
The play area needs to be altered over time, said Donkers.
“For instance, older children may need wider boundaries to play ball or hide-and-seek. Equipment should be constructed from material free of lead-based paint, have a smooth surface to avoid wood or metal slivers, and should not absorb excess heat from the sun.”
Play equipment should also be suitably spaced so, for example, a swing can’t hit another child. Play structures also need to be securely anch
sored, and material on the ground should help absorb the impact of a fall.
Consider posting the rules on a sign in a highly visible area, and establishing consequences if rules are broken, she said.
For more information on safety programs, see www.agriculture.alberta.ca/farmsafety.