Farming is not child’s play

Date published: 08 July 2016

Today marks the final day of Farm Safety Week 2016; five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers urging them to consider “Who Would Fill your Boots?” if something were to happen to them in the workplace; never is this more poignant than when an accident happens to a child.

According to the Farm Safety Foundation’s Stephanie Berkeley, “We all know that farms can be wonderful places for children where independence and responsibility are fostered and family relationships are strengthened.

"The farm environment provides children with valuable and unique experiences that enable them to develop both socially and physically, even though they are in an isolated setting. However farmyards are not playgrounds and evidence shows that this places children at greater risk of injury when playing or helping out around the farm.”

After watching his eight year old son have a serious accident with a tractor last year, former president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), Wallace Gregg is keen to highlight the dangers to children on farms – whether these children are guests or part of the farming family.

The 26th October 2015 was a day like any other for Cloughmills farmer Wallace Gregg. Wallace was preparing to pick up a low loader trailer from a local plant hire company using his tractor.

Wallace’s eight year old son James was on half term holiday and asked his father if he could come along and help. Wallace agreed and he, James and younger brother Simon (five) got into the tractor cab with Simon sitting on the small passenger seat in the tractor cab and James standing in front of Simon with his back to the nearside cab door.

A little into the journey Wallace started to slow the tractor down as they were approaching a junction. Wallace warned the boys that the road was going to get bumpy. At this point the tractor hit a bump in the road, the near-side tractor door flew open and James fell out. Wallace immediately stopped the tractor and got out.

He found James lying semi-conscious at the side of the road. Using his mobile Wallace phoned for an ambulance and while he was making the call another driver stopped to help. Wallace asked the driver to take him and his sons to the local medical centre where he was examined by two doctors. James was then taken by ambulance to Antrim Area Hospital and transferred to Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital later that afternoon.

James had sustained a double skull fracture during the incident and was kept under sedation in intensive care for 24 hours. He did not receive surgery for his injuries but remained in hospital for eight days.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending as James has made a full recovery and has returned to school – his condition is still being monitored to ensure that he has not suffered any long term effects. Wallace is keen to share his family’s traumatic experience and features in a powerful new farm accident survivor story video.  To view the video visit HSENI’s YouTube channel at the following link:

Stephanie added: “This is a story that many farmers across the UK and Ireland can empathise with. It is something that many farmers do and have done for centuries but Wallace would be the first to advise people to really think twice and use your common sense when dealing with children on the farm. People often believe that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who are hurt in farm incidents are family members. A few straightforward steps, and proper supervision of children, will reduce these risks.

“Wallace is a very brave father to share his experience with us. Taking a ride on a tractor, combine or an ATV seems exciting to many children, but it is just not safe. Sometimes parents will say, “Well, my children always rode with me and nothing bad ever happened to them.” But year after year, we see life changing injuries to children from farm vehicles, and no parent ever thinks it will be their child.”

Notes to editors: 

About Farm Safety Week

  1. Farm Safety Week 2016 is supported by the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority, Ireland.
  2. The Campaign aims to highlight the serious dangers posed by farms and offers themed practical advice and guidance for farmers. This year Farm Safety Week urged farmers to consider “Who Would Fill Your Boots?” if something were to happen to them, or to a family member. Farm Safety Week 2016 focuses on five themes over the five days: Falls, Machinery, Livestock, Transport, Children.
  3. Farm Safety Week started in 2013 and struck a chord with the farming community with the initiative being recognised by 60% of the farming community according to recent Voice of the Farmer research*. It has grown to include England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; five nations with a single purpose; to reduce death and serious injuries in agriculture. *Voice of the Farmer interviewed a sample of 1200 farmers across the UK in April 2016, matched to UK profile of all farms by country and farm size.
  4. The Farm Safety Partnership, which comprises the HSENI, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), NFU Mutual (NFUM), the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA), is tasked with assisting Northern Ireland’s farming community to work safely and tackle the problem of work-related fatalities and injuries on farms.  The partnership is chaired by George Lucas, chairman of HSENI. 
  5. The Farm Safety Partnership’s ongoing ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ farm safety campaign focuses on the four main causes of death and injury on our farms – slurry, animals, falls and equipment (SAFE).
  6. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy (DfE).
  7. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland.

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