Farm Water Safety

Image of grassy farm fields with several dams, a windmill and some cows in the distance

Bodies of water on and around farms can pose significant drowning risks for toddlers and young children if they are left unsupervised. There are many places a toddler can drown on a farm including rivers, lakes and dams, along with water troughs and irrigation channels. The most common location for toddler drowning deaths on farms are dams, however the number of drowning deaths in all rural waterways is increasing.

How do I keep my child safe?

In rural areas, it is not always feasible to fence off large water bodies such as lakes or dams, so Royal Life Saving suggests parents create a safe play area for children. This could be a securely fenced area near the home in which the child can be closely supervised by adults.

A child-safe play area is a carefully planned, designated location which is securely fenced and helps to prevent a young child from entering other areas of the farm without adult supervision. Pool fencing requirements, including appropriate ‘child resistant’ gates and latches, can be used as a guide in planning a safe play area.

Farmsafe Australia and the USA National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety have information on safe play area design and construction.

What else can I do to prevent drowning?

There are many reasons why a parent’s attention can be diverted from their child. Busy lifestyles, phone calls, visitors, preparing meals, and attending to other siblings are just some of the things which demand our attention. Royal Life Saving's Keep Watch program advocates that supervision be supported by fenced safe play areas and water familiarisation, and that family members undertake resuscitation training.

Ensure that others on the farm, such as farm workers or visitors, are alert to “watch out” for children who may wander near water – especially at peak times when parents may get distracted (e.g. harvesting, stock movement, events with visitors).

Rural Waterways Checklist

  • Fill in unused ditches, sheep dips and post holes
  • Put covers / lids on wells and tanks
  • Ensure someone is designated to "keep watch" over children
  • Ensure others on the farm (eg. farm workers, visitors) are alert to “watch out” for children who may wander near water - especially at peak times when parents may get distracted (eg. harvesting, stock movement, BBQs with visitors)
  • Create a securely fenced safe play area close to the house to keep the child from entering the farm workplace, including water bodies

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