Farm Tasks of Children

Children working on farms are involved in a wide array of farm tasks. In Kentucky, 82% of children studied were involved in the feeding and care of animals and 70% performed work related to the production of tobacco. In Colorado, children reported working with feeding animals and collecting eggs as early as 18 months, driving four wheelers or three wheelers between the ages of 4 and 7, driving tractors as early as 7 years, with many driving tractors by age 10 (Fig. 12.2). Children and parents reported that parents and grandparents decide when children are old enough to perform chores and that they learn how to perform chores by assisting under supervision and then performing independently. Safety information was learned from observation of parents and other workers on the farms, with the children being aware of inconsistencies between what they were told was safe and what safety practices they observed in others. The children also viewed being injured as a normal part of growing up and working on a farm. The attitude of children and adolescents toward safety equipment was that it was inconvenient, uncomfortable, and frequently unavailable. Further, since much of the equipment available, such as hearing protection, serves to protect injuries that will affect the children later in life, the use of such protection was not seen as immediately relevant (44,52-55).

Considerable attention and financial resources have been devoted to educational efforts to promote childhood farm safety, in part because education is the most acceptable prevention strategy among farm populations. A recent educational approach is the North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) (http://www.nagcat.com), which assists parents in assigning developmentally appropriate and safe work for children aged 7 to 16 years. In 2003, Safe Kids Canada commissioned a systematic review to synthesize evidence about the application of NAGCAT and the efficacy or effectiveness of other strategies aimed at farm injuries to children (http://www.safekidscanada.ca/ENGLISH/IP_PROFESSIONALS/Rural-SafetyProgram/SafeKidsFullRuralReport.pdf) (56-58).

The NAGCAT authors concluded:

1. Few studies have evaluated structural changes on farms to make them safer.

2. Prevention efforts were limited for toddlers and preschool children.

3. There are no evaluations of child care for farm children.

4. NAGCAT dissemination efforts were improved when accompanied by a visit to the farm by a safety professional or when child development principles were provided in conjunction with the guidelines.

5. School-based programs and safety day camps were effective in increasing short-term knowledge, but none addressed reduction of injuries as an outcome.

6. The results of tractor training programs and community-based interventions involving youth were inconsistent.

In a study among Hmong children involved in agricultural work, the authors concluded that NAGCAT could not be literally translated and disseminated due to cultural differences in task assignment, level of responsibility compared with North American children, more authoritarian parenting practices among Hmong parents, and the shorter stature of Hmong children. More information on farm task assignments among children and adolescents from other cultural groups, including migrant and seasonal farm workers, is needed to evaluate the relevance of the NAGCAT program. In addition, studies assessing injury outcomes are also needed for all prevention and intervention programs that are currently being used (58).

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