School’s out – make it a SAFE summer for children on farms

HSENI Principal Inspector, Malcolm Downey with David McKay on his farm in Co Antrim.
HSENI Principal Inspector, Malcolm Downey with David McKay on his farm in Co Antrim.

With the school holidays just around the corner, UFU in its role as a member of the Farm Safety Partnership, is reminding farming families to put safety first for children this summer.

Tragically, fatal accidents involving children on farms have been all too common on our farms over recent years.

The biggest dangers to children on a farm are being hit or run over by farm machinery and being exposed to slurry gas.

Other hazards include falling from tractors, drowning, farm animals and falling objects.

HESNI highlight some of these dangers and offer some useful safety tips to help keep children safe on the farm.


Children are often drawn towards busy work areas where heavy machinery is operating. However, kids can be hard to see and are in great danger of being injured, particularly during busy times, like when cutting silage or spreading slurry.

Always make sure your vehicles have good all-round visibility with clean windows and mirrors – and keep children under five in a safe play area.

Safe play area

If young children live on, play on, or visit a working farm yard it is essential that an area is set aside to allow them to play safely. The play area should be securely fenced with upright fencing to prevent children climbing out. It should also be close to home to allow them to be easily supervised.


Make sure slurry pits and lagoons are securely fenced and that tank covers are always in place. If slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer to stop anything falling in.

Always keep children away from buildings where slurry is being mixed.

Tractors and children

Tractors are not designed to carry children, as they can easily fall off and be run over. The law says that no child under 13 years old may drive or ride on tractors or any other self-propelled machine used during an agricultural operation.

Children aged 13 or over can, with appropriate permission and supervision, drive a tractor on agricultural land. However, they must hold a nationally recognised certificate of competence in the safe driving and operation of tractors.

Suitable training is available from CAFRE, contact Greenmount campus for more information.

Quad bikes

Only properly trained people, within the recommended age range should be allowed to operate quad bikes – the minimum age is usually 16. They must also wear the correct head protection and be properly supervised.

Passengers must never be carried on quad bikes.

Harmful substances

Lock away all harmful, poisonous substances and do not allow children to pick up spray containers or touch drums containing chemicals. Animal medicines, dosing guns and syringes must also be put away in a safe place.

Avoid Harm on the Farm checklist

HSENI would urge all farming families to cut out and keep the safety checklist as a reminder to see what action needs to be taken to keep children safe.

If children are old enough, tell them about the dangers they should look out for and where they are not allowed to go - encourage them to be responsible.

Child farm safety videos

As part of its ‘Be Aware Kids’ campaign, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has produced two farm safety videos aimed at two specific age groups - ‘Dangerous Playgrounds’ for four to eight year olds and ‘Farm Safe’ for eight to 11 year olds.

Both videos can be viewed on HSENI’s YouTube channel and UFU would encourage families to watch them together and talk over the safety issues shown.

To find out more about child farm safety and to download the latest advice, please visit HSENI’s Farm Safe website at: or contact HSENI on 0800 0320 121.


On behalf of the Farm Safety Partnership, we’d like to offer our sincere thanks to David and Sarah McKay for their help in promoting safety during Child Safety on the Farm Week (22 – 28 June).

David and Sarah hosted a BBC Newsline report about child farm safety from their busy County Antrim farm where they look after their eight grandchildren, all under the age of seven.

Two of the grandchildren attend Carnaghts Primary School near Ballymena and we’d also like to thank everyone at the school for their help in making the BBC report.

Children from around 25 farm families attend the school and to help raise awareness the school’s principal Ian Henderson has built farm safety messages into the learning curriculum.

Earlier in the year the children were given literacy work sheets to highlight the dangers of slurry. As Mr Henderson explains: “They were revising capital letters, full stops, commas and the content of the work sheet was around the dangers of slurry, slurry gas and associated dangers of machinery. They were learning about the dangers at a very important time of the year and, at the same time, learning about punctuation.”

It’s great to see children learning about farm safety in school and shows that everyone can play their part in keeping our young ones safe on the farm.