Children and public safety

What you need to know...

Every year children are killed during agricultural work activities.

People often believe that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who die in farm incidents are family members. A few straightforward steps, and proper supervision of children, will reduce these risks.

Other members of the public may also be at risk, eg when using public rights of way through fields containing cattle and calves.

What you need to do...

It is against the law to allow a child under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural self-propelled machines (such as tractors) and certain other farm machinery. The law also requires that employers make sure their risk assessment for young people under the age of 18 takes full account of their inexperience, immaturity and lack of awareness of relevant risks.

The key issues are:

Children – driving or operating farm machinery

The law says that no child under 13 may drive or ride on tractors and other self-propelled machines used in agriculture.

Before allowing children over 13 to operate a tractor, certain conditions must be met. We describe these in full in HSE's free leaflet Preventing accidents to children on farms.

Children under 16 must not drive, operate, or help to operate, any of the following:

Carrying passengers on farm machinery

It is illegal to carry children under 13 in the cab of an agricultural vehicle and it is unsafe. Children can and do:

If you carry children or adults on trailers (eg for farm visits, 'pick-your-own') ensure that:

If you have to leave machinery in an area accessed by members of the public, make sure you leave it in a safe condition:

Make sure that contractors and visiting drivers have clearly defined directions on where to park, load and unload and where to wait. This is particularly important if you are aware of public access routes across yards or if the delivery zone is adjacent to the farmhouse.

The risks from animals

Animals do not need to attack to pose a danger to people:

Check that children or other members of the public:

Normally, you will not be required to provide PPE to children or members of the public visiting your farm. If PPE is required for young workers this should be appropriate to the task, eg a suitable riding hat.

Remember, if you have fields with rights of way or other permitted public access, make sure:

The risks in the workplace

Farms are not playgrounds. Remember that children are naturally curious, and will often get into apparently inaccessible places. Make sure you exclude them from potentially dangerous areas, such as:

To deter access to these areas:


For further information on managing the risks from slurry please see Managing slurry on farms.

Gates and wheels

Children may be tempted to climb on gates or wheels. Check that gates are properly erected and will not topple. Store flat or firmly secure upright any tractor wheels or gates not in use.

Stacks of hay or straw

Other areas, too, attract children. Stacks of hay or straw appear ideal for making dens in, but they can collapse or catch fire, killing those under or on top of them. Always:

Grain bins

Grain bins also seem inviting places in which to play, until the grain begins to flow out and the child is drawn into the grain and drowns. Make sure children cannot get into bins, and check they are not in the store before starting machinery.