There is never a dull moment at the Hallam household, especially when you add four fearless and adventurous boys under 9 years of age to the mix. Life is full of adventure living on their country farm, located in northern Victoria. Not a day goes by when the boys are not outside running free, playing in mud, helping with the farm chores and enjoying the experiences that farm life has to offer.
As exciting and charming growing up in a rural setting can be, children in regional areas are at greater risk of suffering from an injury or injury related death. New statistics from the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit’s (VISU) ‘Hazard’ report reveals that child (0-14 years) injury related death rates in outer regional areas of Victoria are four times that of rates for children in major cities.
Jason Chambers, General Manager of Kidsafe Victoria, highlighted the unique environments and hazards that were present for children on farms and in regional areas, saying “farms typically combine the family home and an industrial workplace, which means children are exposed to a wide range of hazards that aren’t present in urban home environments.”
“Common injury hazards for children on farms include machinery, vehicles (e.g. tractors, motorbikes and quad bikes), animals, water hazards (e.g. dams, rivers, creeks and animal drinking troughs) and poisons (e.g. pesticides),'' said Mr Chambers.
Mum Cherie knows this only too well - in the last three months she has made three emergency hospital visits due to unintentional injuries inflicted on her family’s farm.
One of these involved her five-year-old son. Denzel and his brothers were playing in the barn where the recently harvested lentil crop was stored. Over the course of several days, unbeknown to his Mum, he proceeded to eat handfuls of the dried crop. He was warned by his brother Parker to stop before he got sick, however this warning fell on deaf ears. Soon after Denzel started to complain of severe pains in his stomach, which was by now visibly swollen.
The family presented to the local hospital emergency department where Denzel was then transferred to a larger hospital with the concern of bowel obstruction. He spent the next three days undergoing treatment to clear the obstruction. Whilst his Mum can laugh about it now, she was unaware that legumes could even be considered a hazard. Whilst Denzel still admits to still “really loving lentils”, given the graphic details Cherie encountered during the clean out process, she never wants to see another one again.
Cherie and her husband Patrick have educated their children from a young age about potential hazards on their farm and have taught them clear rules and guidelines. Farm safety resonates strongly with the family given that Patrick himself had a near miss drowning incident in his family farm's dam at 18 months old.
Some of the rules and measures they have put in place to help keep their kids safe include:
- Locking all chemicals and pesticides away in a shed.
- Identifying the dam as an area not to play in without an adult.
- Slowing down when driving vehicles on the property to ensure that no children are in the vicinity.
- Cherie has undertaken a first aid course.
They have created age appropriate jobs for the children and restricted involvement in dangerous tasks.
This National Farm Safety Week, Kidsafe Victoria is encouraging all families to follow the Hallam’s and have a conversation about safety and what can be done ensure their children can live, grow, learn and play safely on their farm.
This article has been released for National Farm Safety Week (21 st – 26 th July 2019), which is held each year to raise awareness of farm safety issues across Australia. For more information on farm safety, please visit our Parent's Guide to Kidsafe Farms