Small children view safety from a different perspective to adults. Harriet Bremner reports.

Imagine your child is six years old and catches the local school bus every day. They are sponsored with high vis vests to wear while waiting by the road. A great initiative to help keep our children safe because they are more visible.

But what if you heard that child say: “I can stand out on the road now and won’t get run over because I am wearing my high vis vest.”

I heard this very thing once a few years back and remember thinking, ‘wow, is this what health and safety has come to in our country?’

Now, don’t get me wrong, the vest is a great idea BUT the child did not really understand the purpose of it. Sure, it works to be more easily seen but it doesn’t make them instantly bombproof. At what point have we stopped teaching people to primarily make good decisions first, always? If you make a bad decision while wearing a brightly coloured vest, you can still be badly hurt or killed.

We want our children to grow up being adults who are able to think for themselves and make good decisions that will keep them and others around them safe, no matter what situation they find themselves in. As adults, it is our responsibility to engage in conversations with children about the ‘why’ so that they have a full understanding of what we are saying.

Does it ever make you wonder why your children ask you ‘why’ all the time? The basic reasoning for this is because they need the ‘why’ to help them understand things in the environment around them.

I believe children are going to be a game-changer in the space of health, safety and wellbeing in our rural communities.

First, they are not affected by the tainted brand that we, as adults, generally perceive health and safety to be. We think it’s just about having that shiny paperwork folder and boom, we are compliant.

We are wrong. So incredibly wrong and it is time that the behaviour towards this starts to change so that the culture in the future has a fighting chance.

Children are the future, the future in ag, our future farmers and our future experts and probably of things we aren’t even aware of yet so let’s give them the best start in practical, hands-on knowledge when it comes to farming and good decision making.

Our take on the world and our perspective is different from a child’s both literally, in a physical sense and based on the life experiences that we have had compared to with them

Take for instance, our view of the back of a vehicle…. As an adult we are able to physically see more and possibly be seen due to our size. A child, however, cannot be seen if they stand in that same place and this is where they get hurt.

We might casually say to the child, ‘don’t stand there/here’.

They may ask why and are told ‘just don’t it’s not safe’.

Safer Farms and Gurt and Pops recently collaborated with NZ Young Farmers and Strath Taieri School in Middlemarch to run a practical farming health and safety day for the children plus two other schools that came along as well. The day was a roaring success and started off with the children doing first aid training in class for the morning with local Police.

It is incredibly important that children know how to handle an emergency situation because they could be presented with this at any time in their lives. The other two schools then arrived, and all the children had a sausage sizzle. During the second part of the day, nearly 120 children were put into their groups with leaders from the student council at Strath Taieri School. They were then to take part in a wide range of modules where they would practical ways of how to keep safe in situations.

The parents and community members supplied the tools, machinery and more so that we could run the day. From the NZ Police tractor, to motorbikes, trailers, side-by-sides and more, children engaged in a day where they identified risks and hazards and had important conversations about these. They completed tasks like stropping down a load safely onto a trailer as a team and explaining why this is important.

The children were learning to use their Think Safe Brains, a tagline that I created in my Be Safe, Be Seen picture book. The idea of this is to encourage adults and children to be able to stop, think and make the best decision possible in any moment. We cannot teach every single situation that you or your children could come across while on farm, but we can install clear messages about good decision making that can be applied to any situation on farm and in life.

My aim is to encourage parents to have these important conversations with their children and give them the why so that they truly understand why you have told or talked to them about not doing something e.g. walking/running/standing in a blind spot behind a tractor or truck. We want children to wear their helmets when riding their bikes because they know it could save their life and it’s the best decision to make… NOT because it is compliance.

If we are making health and safety decisions based on compliance then we are not having the right conversations and these attitudes and behaviours need to change today, starting with our children.

We all want everyone to go home safely at the end of every single day.

It was amazing to see that parents and grandparents took time off their farms to supply equipment needed for the day and then got actively involved in the running of the day.

I have a dream for these farm safety days to happen all over the country. It is not just about farm safety; it brings small communities together and celebrates our farming industry.

Next month I will share with you some helpful tips and tricks to having these conversations with your little people so that you know everyone is making good decisions on your farm during the school holidays when we know life can be a little hectic!

I wish you all a very safe and healthy Merry Christmas and Happy New Year with the people you love. Remember it is the decisions that you make in a moment that keep yourself and your loved ones safe so always, always, stop, think, then decide.