Educate children about dangers around farm Farming is considered by the National Safety Council to be one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States, and the children living or visiting farms aren't immune to these hazards.

"Children are vulnerable to many of the same hazards as adults who live or work on farms, but they are far less capable of understanding those hazards," says Farm Safety 4 Just Kids community relations director Mindy Williamson. "Although parents cannot completely child-proof a farm, they need to make it as safe as possible."

Each year more than one hundred children are killed and thousands more are injured on farms and ranches in the United States, according to Farm Safety 4 Just Kids.

More specifically, 32,800 children were injured in farm-related accidents in 1998, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reports. Twenty-seven percent of these childhood injuries occurred in the South, with a national injury rate of 1.7 injuries for every 100 farms in the United States.

About 56 percent of all childhood injuries that occur on farming operations are classified by NASS as non-work-related. The remaining 44 percent of farming accidents involving children are considered work-related injuries.

While boys are four times more likely to suffer a farm-related injury than girls, a child's age can also increase his or her risk of being injured or killed on a farm. Approximately 34 percent of all farm-related youth injuries happened to children under age 10, about 39 percent to children age 10-15, and 27 percent to adolescents age 16-19, NASS reports.

In its promotion of National Farm Safety and Health Week, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids is urging farm families to provide their children with safety information and training, and age-appropriate guidelines to follow on the farm. According to the farm safety group, when a child is involved in a farm accident it's often because that child is performing tasks that are beyond his or her mental, physical or emotional abilities.

"A combination of education, improved engineering and enforced regulations are all needed to prevent unnecessary injuries on the farm," says Williamson. "As a parent, all three factors are your responsibility. You can make sure equipment is safe for your children to operate and you can enforce all safety rules with consequences. But, one of the biggest impacts you can have on your child's behavior is in proper education and training."

Farm Safety 4 Just Kids recommends the following precautions to prevent childhood farm-related injuries:

- Find out what the developmental characteristics of children are at specific ages. Child development guidelines are available that give abilities of children at different ages. These characteristics help to identify typical risks at various ages.

- Identify the dangerous areas on your farm. Using your child's characteristics, determine where kids are most likely to get hurt on the farm. Determine what draws children to dangerous situations. For example, toddlers are especially at risk for pesticide poisoning because of their curiosity, tendency to put things in their mouths, inability to read labels, and budding independence.

- Set up appropriate rules for children to follow. Remember that very young children cannot understand the concept of rules, but as children grow they begin to understand the reasons for guidelines and the consequences for not following them. Be consistent in enforcement of the rules.

- Supervise children according to their age. Very young children need constant supervision. Children must prove they are capable of following the farm rules before they are allowed to perform farm tasks.