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More focus needed to prevent farm injuries


Researchers and policy makers could be doing more to prevent children’s injuries on farms, says a new study from the University of Alberta.

Published this month in Pediatrics, the study says there is a lack of evidence to show which programs are effective in preventing injuries to children on farms. Each year, three to four children under 15 years of age die, and more than 75 are hospitalized, as a result of injuries occurring on Alberta farms and ranches. "Given the magnitude and severity of the problem, it’s surprising there is such little evidence available for people who would like to know whether or not the programs we have in place are working," said Lisa Hartling, one of the authors of the paper and a co-director of the Alberta Research Centre for Child Health Evidence at the U of A.

Children who live on farms have an increased risk of serious, even fatal, injury compared to children in general across Canada. "The fact that farms serve as worksites, places of recreation and homes makes them a unique environment that exposes children to particular hazards," Hartling said. "The traditional means of reducing injuries in any worksite are through education, regulations, and technological improvements that make equipment safer to use," she added.

According to the paper in Pediatrics, programs initiated in other industries have spurred "dramatic" improvements in the prevention of injuries, but the independent nature of farmers makes conducting research and implementing new initiatives on farms particularly challenging. "More regulations could be initiated to improve safety for children on farms, such as designating certain area on the farm as play areas and increasing child care requirements during the busy harvesting season," Hartling said. However, she added, "The idea of placing regulations on private farms is a highly political, and even if some regulations were in place, research is required to find out which ones worked and which didn’t.

Hartling hopes that one relatively new initiative, the North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks, will be effective in reducing work-related injuries on farms, but she notes that the guidelines do not address non-work activities on farms, which is a common time when serious injuries occur. "There is clearly a need to develop effective programs to prevent injuries to children on farms. There are many educational programs around farm safety in place now, yet the number of serious injuries to children continues at an unacceptably high rate."

Ryan Smith | EurekAlert!
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