Rural Affairs

Children and young people on farms

Commodity watch by policy officer Sarah Morrell

Child safety on farms

The summer holidays are greatly anticipated by school children who welcome a break from the classroom and many like to get stuck into helping on the farm. Whilst it is encouraging to see the next generation interested in farming and to have an extra pair of helping hands, it is very important to keep children safe and to remember that a farmyard is a busy and dangerous workplace – not a playground.

It is not always easy to supervise children and work on the farm at the same time, so parents/guardians should think about proactive measures they can put in place to help protect children from the dangers on farm. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has provided a farm safety checklist for parents to help them keep their kids safe regardless of the time of year. Such measures include having a safe and secure play area for young children, preventing children from playing in or around machinery and livestock, and keeping chemicals locked in a secure store when not in use. A full list of guidance on making farms a safer place can be found on the HSENI website.

Young people and tractor driving legislation

The Agriculture (Safety of Children and Young Persons) Regulation (Northern Ireland) 2006 and Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), states that no child under the age of 13 may drive or ride on tractors or any other self-propelled machine used in agriculture. This applies in farmyards, fields or on the road.

As children get older, the variety of jobs they can complete increases and their interest can turn to operating machinery. Children aged 13 and over can drive a tractor on the farm (not the road) to complete agricultural related work only once they have obtained a certificate of competence. By law children between 13 and 15 years old must complete a LANTRA certified course. The summer holidays creates a good opportunity for young people to complete this course. Details of the training that is available in your area can be found by visiting the LANTRA website.

Young people aged 16 and older may obtain a Provisional Category F which allows them to drive agricultural tractors up to 2.45 metres wide, including towing a trailer up to 2.45 metres wide. Provisional license holders are not permitted to drive through 30mph zones unless they pass a Category F test. Three centres in NI offer Category F tests – Ballymena, Craigavon and Newtownards. Completing a Category F test is not mandatory but will allow a 16 year old to drive through 30mph zones. However, it does not change the width of vehicle and/or appliance that can be towed.

Finally, summer is a busy season in the farming calendar and with a very wet July so far, farmers are feeling the pressure as they wait for a break in the weather for second cuts of silage and other field work. While children like to get involved on farm, it’s important not to overestimate their ability and remember that they are children, parents/ guardians are ultimately responsible for their safety on the farm.