Farm safety is a serious concern. Between hazardous farm equipment and sometimes erratic livestock, our frontline producers live in a very dangerous world. However, while farms are one of the most risky places to work, farm safety doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. That’s part of the reason the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) is currently facilitating the 2013 Canadian Agricultural Safety Week.
It’s worth highlighting the vast importance of safety in this hazardous field. After all, though 85% of producers say that safety is a priority on their farms, less than 10% actually have a documented safety plan onsite, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Also, we have to consider the fact that while farms do rely on a lot of transient, seasonal help, the nucleus of operations on farms is often represented by a tightly knit family. So while occupational injury and illness is never a good thing, it is even more problematic – emotionally, financially – to the families themselves when health and safety is compromised. But that should also be a great excuse to ratchet up the approach to safety.
So, with all this in mind, it’s worth taking a look at the top five agricultural safety tips:
- Get with the plan! A key focus of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week 2013 is the need for farms to develop documented health and safety plans. As mentioned, not many farms actually have these, but they’re an essential requirement of doing business. And they really don’t have to be complicated. They just have to cover all the bases and, critically, they have to actually be followed. But if you don’t have one, get one. The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) has made it really easy: they’ve provided a free plan outline with explicit instructions on what you need to include in your plan.
- On the road: If you have to drive equipment off the farm and on the roads, remember to be exceptionally cautious. Make sure your vehicle has all the proper lighting equipment, and never drive on public roads in the dark.
- Take charge of your tools: Any farm needs a ton of tools on hand to get an array of different jobs done, but in addition to ensuring the tools are used safely, we need to be vigilant about ensuring they are properly stored and maintained. Ensure power tools are unplugged when not in use, and properly grounded. Also, be proactive about maintaining all tools according to manufacturer guidelines. Set up a calendar with a yearly maintenance schedule, and keep a documented, up-to-date inventory of all of the tools on your farm.
- Watch the kids: The often untold story of farm safety has less to do with the workers themselves, and more to do with kids. As family-centric operations, farms will have young children around much of the time. Unfortunately, the number of child deaths on farms in Canada and around the world is staggering. Between 1990 and 2008, almost 250 children under 15 years of age were killed in Canadian agricultural incidents. The biggest threats are getting run over by a machine, drowning, machine rollovers, and animal-related incidents. So be extra-vigilant when it comes to child safety and always know where all kids are at all times. Install fencing around ponds and streams, and ensure everyone onsite knows to keep kids away from the machinery!
- Respect the livestock: Farmers spend years building up relationships of mutual trust with their horses, cattle, pigs and other livestock. But remember, no matter how confident you feel with your animal friends, animals can be erratic creatures. Ensure you always have a clear escape route, ideally with multiple escape options, when working with livestock. Wear appropriate clothing and protective equipment including gloves and strong boots.