Farm Safety Week: How to plan a safe school visit

Farms and crofts can often be dangerous places for children but, according to the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), with the right planning and precautions they can be safe, fun and, above all, educational.

RHET specialises in educating children about farms and where their food comes from in Scotland and are industry leaders in organising farm visits for school children.

Here’s a few tricks of the trade the organisation uses to make things run more smoothly:

‘Common sense and plenty of planning’

Carole Brunton, RHET Fife Countryside Initiative project coordinator, is in charge of organising farm visits in the district, making sure that the farms, teachers and children are all ready for a fun, safe and educational experience.

Her top tip for having children on farm? Common sense and plenty of planning.

Brunton said: “For us, farm safety is extremely important – for the children’s safety, for the farmer’s reputation, and for RHET – because if we had one accident on one farm it would stop all farm visits. We don’t want that to happen, so we have a very strict regime.

Risk assessment and ‘pre-visit’

The only ones who should be caught by surprise on a farm tour are the children, Brunton explains.

“We have a risk assessment process that we go through which we do with the farmer before the children are anywhere near the farm,” she said.

“Then we go out with the teacher and the farmer and we do a pre-visit so that everyone knows what’s going to happen on the day when the children arrive.

Last minute checks

Leaving time for extra last-minute checks is also a sensible idea in case a colleague has moved a piece of machinery – or something has been forgotten about.

“On the day of the visit, the farmer will go around and make sure there’s no dangerous machinery sitting out – for example, or there’s not a hole being dug near to where we’ll be. We work closely with the host to make the site as safe as possible,” she added.

I would say common sense and supervision are the main things for any farm visit. We don’t want to make it all rules and regulations, so they can’t enjoy themselves. But there has to be an element of control.

“We do tend to let them enjoy themselves and have a bit of fun because that’s the best way for them to learn.

“We have a plan for every visit before we turn up, we have a plan of what we are going to do and where we’re going to take them.

“The handwashing and boot washing is really important to us. Before they leave the farm they get their hands washed with antibacterial soap, running water and paper towels, so there’s no contamination. Then they all walk through a foot dip before they leave.”