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Children on farms

Children on farms are exposed to many hazards. Find out what you can do to protect them, and what your legal responsibilities are.

What do we mean by ‘children on farms’?

This page is about the health and safety of people under 18 who are:

  • on a farm
  • not there as a worker.

This includes children who live on a farm or who are visiting a farm. Note that it also includes children who enter a farm without permission—for example by accident, to explore, or to take a short cut.

You can find information elsewhere on our site about the:

What are the risks?

Children are less likely than adults to recognise and avoid hazards and so they can be at greater risk in some situations. On average, 15 children younger than 15 are fatally injured on Australian farms every year. Many more are seriously injured.

Some examples of the risks children are exposed to on farms are:

  • drowning in dams, irrigation channels and rivers or creeks
  • quad bike and motorcycle incidents
  • machinery and vehicle incidents
  • injuries from livestock, especially horses.

How to manage the risks

Workers, managers and everyone else who lives or works on a farm, can work together to reduce the risk to children.

The four-step process below is designed to help business meet their legal obligations, and involve everyone in keeping children safe.

Workers’ responsibilities

As a worker, you must:

  • take reasonable care of your own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of others
  • cooperate with management to meet health and safety requirements and reduce risks.

Managements’ responsibilities

As an employer or business owner, you have legal responsibilities, as outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, for the health and safety of everyone who visits, or works or lives at, your place of work.

The four-step risk management process below will help you meet these responsibilities.

Four steps to managing risk

The first step is to identify hazards.

Think about:

  • why children could be on the farm—they may live on the farm, join their parents at work, visit the farm or wander over from neighbouring properties
  • where they might be able to go on the farm
  • what they might do on the farm—for example, follow pets around, climb on haystacks, or explore equipment
  • what other adults or older children on the farm could allow them to do—for example, ride on tractors or quad bikes.

Particular hazards for children on farms include:

  • farm structures, like dams, troughs, and silos—dams are the biggest single cause of child death on Australian farms
  • quad bikes, utes, and motorcycles
  • mobile farm machinery, like tractors
  • animals, like horses and cattle
  • firearms
  • chemicals, like pesticides
  • electricity and overhead powerlines.

Use the following steps to draw up a list of hazards.

Inspect your farm

Look at the environment. Ask yourself:

  • is the area around the house securely fenced?
  • are there any water sources that pose a risk?
  • are children allowed in workshops, or on tractors or equipment?
  • are children part of any work processes, for example, during mustering or agri-tourism activities?

Talk to your workers

Ask workers if they:

  • are aware of any potential hazards
  • know of reasons why children would be on the farm.

Think about ways to include workers who are less likely to speak up in a group, or who may have language barriers.

Identifying hazards should be an ongoing activity. Encourage workers to always report anything that could be unsafe to children. Organise an activity to identify hazards:

  • at least once a year
  • whenever there is a change in equipment, facilities, or work practices.

You could also talk to the children who come to your farm. Find out what they do on the farm and if they have had, or know of, any near misses.

Review available information

Look at a range of sources to help identify hazards, for example:

  • find out what hazards other farms have identified
  • look at your own records, including any recorded incidents, near-misses, or complaints.

You can also refer to the Children and young workers code of practice 2006 (PDF, 0.42 MB) and How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) for more advice on identifying hazards.

Next, assess the level of risk posed by each hazard. The risk level is determined by:

  • how serious the potential harm is
  • how likely it is to happen. Generally, the risk is greater if children are frequently exposed to the hazard.

You can use this risk assessment template (DOCX, 0.02 MB) to guide you and record your assessments.

A risk assessment can help you figure out:

  • where, when and how children at your workplace might be at risk
  • the possible degree of harm for a child
  • whether any control measures are already in place and if they’re effective
  • what actions you can take to control the risks and keep children safe
  • how quickly you should act.

The child safety on farms checklist can also help you a get a clearer idea of the level of risk.

The law requires you to put controls in place that minimise the risk as far as reasonably practicable. This means doing what you’re reasonably able to do.

The hierarchy of controls, as discussed in How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB), ranks types of control methods from the highest protection to the lowest.

  1. Eliminate the hazard

  2. Eliminating, or removing the hazard completely, is the best way to reduce risk. By law, you must consider this option first.

    On a farm, this could mean:

    • not allowing children to ride on machinery or adult-sized quad bikes
    • filling in unused dips and ditches
    • dismantling or tearing down unused structures
    • removing unused equipment or chemicals that could pose a risk
    • only allowing children to play in a securely fenced area around the house.
  1. Substitute the hazard

  2. If you can’t eliminate a hazard altogether, consider if you can replace it with something that poses less of a risk. You could, for example:

    • find out if you can use chemicals that are still effective but less hazardous
    • only allow children to ride horses suited to their age, size, and skill level.
  1. Use engineering controls and physical barriers

  2. If the hazard cannot be eliminated or substituted, think of physical ways to isolate the hazard or lower the risk. Consider using:

    • physical barriers, for example:
      • create a secure, fenced area around the house where children can play safely. Find out how to create safe play areas on farms
      • lock power tools, dangerous chemicals, and firearms safely away
      • keep keys to vehicles or machinery locked away when not in use
      • fence off swimming pools, dams and other open water sources near the house
      • ensure children cannot access ladders to climb into silos
      • separate driveways and turning circles from home and play areas.
    • engineering controls, for example:
      • cover tanks, wells and troughs near the house
      • adjust the throttle to limit the maximum speed on a child’s motorcycle
      • use self-closing and self-latching gates.
  1. Administrative controls

  2. Administrative controls are not as effective as removing the risk, but they play an important role. This can include:

    • work processes, like always removing keys from vehicles
    • having clear rules, including that children should:
      • always be closely supervised by an adult
      • never ride in the back of utes or trailers
      • never be carried as passengers on quad bikes
    • making sure that everyone, including children, understands what the rules are, and that the rules are followed
    • establishing clear ‘no-go’ areas for children
    • organising training in resuscitation and emergency procedures
    • teaching children to respect animals and how to interact safely with them.
  1. Personal protective equipment

  2. Always ensure children wear suitable personal protective equipment, for example, helmets and boots, when riding horses or motorcycles.

You should regularly review your control measures. Don’t wait for something to go wrong. If necessary, change or adjust your approach.

Standards and compliance

Codes of practice

Related links