Allowing kids to work on farms is something that is often in the news, especially with a new proposed rule (that is already being re-proposed) on child labor in agriculture, which is working “to increase protections for children working in agriculture while preserving the benefits that safe and healthy work can provide.”
A new study that will appear in the April issue of Pediatrics, “Incidence and Cost of Injury among Youth in Agricultural Settings, United States, 2001-2006,” suggests why we need to increase those protections. the study reports that youth agricultural injuries are a serious problem and that “prevention should focus on better controlling both child access to agricultural recreational activities and child assignment to agricultural work tasks that exceed developmental norms.”
The study found that there were about 26,655 agricultural accidents each year from 2001 to 2006, with many of the non-fatal injuries occurring from falls, transportation incidents, and related to machinery. the most common fatal injuries were caused by machinery and fire and explosions.
One of the most interesting findings in the study is that only 29% of the injuries were work-related. these non-work related injuries likely include things like “recreational horse riding, the operation of all-terrain vehicles, and falls from structures.”
This shouldn’t be too surprising though, especially when you consider the recent reports of farming accidents and tragedies, such as the 3-year-old who died while climbing on a stack of chicken coops in a barn and a 5-year-old who died when he fell out of the cab of a tractor.
The study suggests that “possible solutions include the imposition of regulations for recreational activities that exceed developmental norms, as well as better training and more attentive, proximal, and continuous supervision of children engaged in these tasks.”
I don’t know how you regulate things like childproofing a barn, so we likely need more education about extra hidden hazards that we all may have in and around our homes related to work or hobbies. this is especially true on a farm, where the extra hazards include farm machinery, pesticides, stock ponds, ATVs, and even the animals.
The idea “to match children’s developmental abilities to the demands of agricultural tasks, such that children are not assigned work that is inappropriate to their developmental stage” does sound like an important idea to decrease work-related injuries.
It is also interesting to note that while only 1.4% of injured youth in the United States are usually hospitalized, 14% of youth injured in agriculture are hospitalized, indicating that these kids have more severe injuries when they are hurt. the study also found that these injuries cost society billions of dollars every year, and 84 fatalities each year cost an estimated $420 million.
Related: Farm Safety 4 just Kids Farm Accidents and Tragedies Saturday Safety Roundup Child Safety