Introduction Agriculture is among the world’s most common and most dangerous occupations and the only one that typically allows children into the occupational setting. In 1997 the U.S. launched its National Initiative for Childhood Agricultural Injury Prevention. Surveillance in 1998 revealed that 2/3 of the annual 37 000 injuries and deaths occurred to non-working children (bystanders).
Methods Given the challenge of regulating agriculture, voluntary standards were created via a consensus process involving a multi-stakeholder group. In 1999, the ‘North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks’ (NAGCAT) were released to assist farm parents in assigning age-appropriate work for children. In 2004, guidelines for ‘Creating Safe Play Areas on Farms’ were released to guide parents in maintaining a protected recreational area for very young children when off-farm child care is not available. Recently, these guidelines were modified and upgraded as mobile-friendly resources.
Results With federal funding, the NAGCAT guidelines were field-tested. Results demonstrated that using NAGCAT reduced injuries by 50%. Research also highlighted the strength of dissemination strategies, and their application in different populations. Meanwhile, the Safe Play Area guidelines were being shared with young farm parents. Agricultural media coverage was positive and farm organisations and insurance vendors began referencing these preferred strategies for safeguarding children. In the past 30 years the rate of agricultural injuries for working and non-working youth has dropped by more than 60%. Better parenting practices and social norms have improved safety conditions for children living and working on farms.
Discussion These publicly available, voluntary guidelines are an option in lieu of regulations. They can be promoted through different spheres of influence, e.g. farm organisations, health agencies, educators, and the media. They have been translated and modified for use beyond North America and have the potential to safeguard children in developing countries where mechanised equipment is increasingly used in agriculture.
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