Creating Safe Play Areas on the Farm

  From the July 31, 2017 Issue of Agri-News
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 With summer vacation here, children are home on the farm enjoying the sunshine and warm weather.

“Due to children’s natural curiosity, they often perceive the farm as a big playground filled with endless opportunities to explore,” says Janice Donkers, farm safety youth coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Unfortunately, they don’t always recognize the serious dangers that are often lurking around the farmyard. Most rural parents want their kids to enjoy life on the farm, and making safety a priority is one way to ensure that. One of the most effective ways to increase safety on a farm is to create a safe play area for children.”

A safe play area is a carefully planned, designated location with limited exposure to hazards such as traffic, agricultural production and environmental concerns. By designating a “hazard-free” play area, children are removed from the work environment while being able to develop a sense of their own place of belonging the farm.

The safe play area should:

  • be designated by boundaries or physical barriers such as fences, gates or shrubs
  • have continuous, competent supervision
  • enforce safety rules for all children, including additional explanations for visitors/friends
  • be a safe distance from hazards such as vehicle traffic, machinery, unstable structures or loud noises
  • be free from open water and drowning hazards such as ponds, dugouts, or ditches
  • have adequate shade from the sun and shelter from wind, dust or hazardous airborne particles
  • separate children from farm animals with a strong protective barrier
  • be in close proximity to first aid supplies, hand washing and toilet facilities
  • receive regular maintenance (grass mowed, remove poisonous plants, sharp rocks, insect nests, etc.)
  • provide enough space to run and explore
  • contain safe and age-appropriate play equipment such as a sandbox, swings, and playhouse.
Donkers suggests parents select play equipment that is age-appropriate, and to be prepared to make changes as children develop. “For instance, older children may need wider boundaries to play ball or hide-and-seek. Equipment should be constructed from material free of lead-based paint, have a smooth surface to avoid wood or metal slivers, and should not absorb excess heat from the sun.

“Be sure to remove hazards that could pinch, crush, impale, or cut a child. Space equipment correctly to avoid children from falling off one structure and striking another, such as a swing hitting a person. It’s also important to ensure equipment is anchored to prevent toppling, and choose appropriate ground material to absorb the impact of a fall.”

Once a safe play area is created, it’s important to establish safety rules and set limits for its use. Everyone working on the farm needs to know where the safe play area is located and what rules apply. Consider posting the rules on a sign in a highly visible area, and establishing consequences if rules are broken.

“Along with safety rules, providing close supervision is key to children’s safety,” says Donkers. “Adequate supervision involves careful, attentive monitoring where an adult is always within sight and sound of a child.

“In a designated safe play area, with the right equipment and clear boundaries, children can enjoy hours of play time this summer.”

For more information about these resources and programs visit Alberta Farm Safety Program at

Janice Donkers
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Janice Donkers.
This document is maintained by Ken Blackley.
This information published to the web on July 20, 2017.