While June 21 marks the official start of summer, for many it begins as soon as the school year ends. As kids kick off their summer break, filled with outdoor activities under the hot sun, it is still important to keep one subject at the forefront – safety! Whether kids are home unsupervised or helping on the farm, families should prioritize conversations about safety expectations in and around water.

Davidson jana
Program Manager / Progressive Agriculture Foundation

In 2023, water safety ranked in the top five of most-taught topics at Progressive Agriculture Safety Day (PAF Safety Day) programs offered throughout North America, educating more than 30,000 youth participants.

Establishing general rules around water

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning remains a leading cause of unintentional death among children aged 1 to 14, with over 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings occurring annually in the U.S. Drowning can happen swiftly and silently, making active supervision crucial. Stay within arm's reach of young children in water, avoid distractions and ensure everyone in the family learns basic swimming skills. Encourage children to enter the water feet first (one foot at a time), and never dive into shallow water. Swimming with a buddy and obeying safety signs can be lifesaving. You can proactively protect your family by having water safety conversations and taking training courses, such as CPR and first aid.

Securing water sources on the farm, ranch or at home

Farms and ranches harbor numerous water hazards, from dams to irrigation channels, posing drowning risks to children. Establishing a safe play area around the home for young children is a great way to prioritize safety. These play areas should be fenced, located with limited exposure to hazards and easily accessible for adult supervision.

Farming families can assign a safe swimming area on their property and teach children rules for playing in or around water. Children should learn that banks can be slippery and muddy. With murky bodies of water, it is best to exercise caution as swimmers may not know the dangers and creatures within. Install fences with self-closing, self-locking gates that fully enclose areas like swimming pools and farm ponds. Ensure water sources, such as wells, tanks and troughs, are covered.


Essential precautions include having rescue equipment near the water, like a heaving jug or reach pole, and teaching children to call for help in distress. Remember to reach, throw and don't go into the water, but go for help instead!


Remember to reach, throw and don't go into the water, but go for help! Photo provided by Jana Davidson.

Life jackets – put them on first!

This summer, many will be heading to lakes, rivers and oceans for recreational boating activities. Before setting sail, always remember to boat responsibly: Ensure all individuals onboard are equipped with a properly fitted life jacket, and make safety a priority.

In 2022, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported that more than 85 million Americans go boating annually and nearly 11.9 million boats were registered. Unfortunately, boating activities result in thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths each year. Sobering statistics from the 2022 recreational boating statistics by the U.S. Coast Guard revealed that where the cause of death was unknown, 75% of all fatal boating incident victims drowned, and of those, 85% were not wearing a life jacket.

When selecting a life jacket, also known as a personal flotation device (PFD), it is important to know that there is no "one-size-fits-all." Life jackets should not be purchased for a child to grow into; they should fit snugly when fastened. In addition to the fit, the type of boating activity and water conditions should play a role in the selection. Always check the label inside the life jacket to ensure that it is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.

Proper care and use of a life jacket go hand in hand. Be sure to dry life jackets after each use and store them in a dry place when not boating. Discard a life jacket if it has any rips, tears, or is missing fasteners and straps. Hand wash life jackets in soapy, warm water to keep them clean and avoid mildew.

In addition to life jackets, see that your family has any other required safety equipment onboard, such as lights, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals and sound-producing devices. Also, verify with your state or province the minimum age requirement and certificates necessary to operate different types of personal watercraft (PWC).

Protecting our future generations

At PAF Safety Day programs offered throughout North America, activities and demonstrations have been designed to educate children, ages 4 to 13, on a variety of safety and health topics. After participants learn potentially life-saving messages, they return home to share the knowledge they gained with their family and friends.

You too can join the mission and provide education, training and resources to make farm, ranch and rural life safer and healthier for all children and their communities. Visit our website for more information on how to bring a PAF Safety Day to your local community.