Safety strategies around rural bodies of water

  From the January 28, 2019 issue of Agri-News
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 Ask any farm family and they will tell you that growing up on a farm has immeasurable benefits. There are also risks, and one of the statistically higher risks for children on farms involve drowning in dugouts.

Drowning in bodies of water occurs three times as often in rural areas compared to urban settings. According to Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting, 12 children drowned on Alberta farms between 1996 and 2006.

“This statistic is a real concern for us,” says Janice Donkers, farm safety youth coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “To help Albertans learn about the dangers associated with dugouts and other rural bodies of water, the Alberta Farm Safety Program offers an interactive water safety display. The display contains six educational activities, including a discussion on safety precautions and potential water hazards, an ice safety hazard hunt, and a life jacket fitting demonstration.”

This display is available free of charge for groups, organizations or individuals interested in educating youth on the importance of staying clear of ponds, dugouts, and other sources of water.

Safety strategies

  • To further reduce children’s risk of drowning, Donkers advises farms to consider implementing the following safety strategies on their operations:
  • Start the conversation. Talk with children about water hazards and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Always supervise children near water, and restrict access if supervision is not available.
  • If your farm has large bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, dugouts, or irrigational canals reduce any access for children by installing self-closing, self-latching barriers.
  • Ensure rescue equipment is within reach of water bodies, including reaching pole, rope, buoy and personal flotation device. Consider installing a rescue post.
  • Mark deep and/or unsafe swimming areas with floats and/or signage such as No Swimming, No Trespassing, etc.
  • While drowning often happens in larger bodies of water, it can also happen in much smaller hazards such as ditches, wells, or water troughs. Securely cover or drain these hazards to prevent children gaining access
  • During the colder months, always know the strength and thickness of ice before engaging in any winter activities such as ice skating or fishing.
The Water Safety Display is one of many educational resources, displays and publications available free of charge from the Alberta Farm Safety Program. Email to check availability, make an inquiry, or review the Water Safety lesson plans. For more information about this and other safety topics, visit the Alberta Farm Safety Program website at

For producers who need a little help to implement health and safety practices and procedures that align with Occupational Health and Safety legislation, Alberta Labour is funding a grant administered by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. This program offers financial support to eligible employers who have waged, non-family workers and WCB account, find more information on the grant program or email

Janice Donkers

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Janice Donkers.
This document is maintained by Christine Chomiak.
This information published to the web on January 25, 2019.