With an average age of 53.8 years, Manitoba has the second-youngest population of farm operators in Canada.
That means this month’s Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is a way to set an example for the next generation, says Manitoba’s minister of agriculture.
“Everyone in our farming community, and especially our young farmers, has the opportunity to set an example on working safely for this and future generations,” said Ralph Eichler.
“We should be encouraging our farmers to take an active role in setting that example while harnessing the wisdom and experience senior operators bring to family farms.”
There’s no mandatory retirement age for a farmer, and many work well into their 70s and even 80s, note staff with the Manitoba Farm Safety Program, which during the March 11 to March 17 awareness will be sharing information across social media to encourage more farmers to think about making safety a habit and help create a safer workplace on the farm.
This year’s theme for Ag Safety Week is “Supporting Seniors,” a nod to the fact Canada’s agricultural population is now made up of more farmers over age 70 than under 35.
The wisdom and experience seniors bring to farming is vital to preparing the younger generation and preserving the quality of the agricultural industry, says Keith Castonguay, program director with the MFSP.
But it’s also important for these older farmers to manage their health and recognize with aging comes a natural decline in some motor skills and other functions.
“Eating properly, following instructions for medication use, asking for help when needed, and recharging through rest are simple personal risk management practices that can help reduce farm accidents.”
Due to natural changes that come with age, farming past the average retirement age has led to a trend in farm accidents involving seniors.
Farm deaths involving farmers 65 and older now account for more than half of fatal accidents on farms in Canada. One study on work-related mortality in older farmers found that of 151 deaths that occurred while performing farm work, 125 were owner-operators. Most were found to be working alone at the time.
The Manitoba Farm Safety Program was established in 2017 to provide workplace health and safety services to the agriculture industry in Manitoba. The program is hosted by Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), and funded through a grant under the Manitoba Agriculture GF2 program for an initial two years.
Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is presented by Farm Credit Canada, Canadian Agricultural Safety Association and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture with assistance from the Government of Canada through Growing Forward 2.
Seniors on farms
The MFSP offers the following precautions and modifications to consider for seniors working on the farm:
- Increase light in low-visibility areas and complete tasks during ample daylight;
- Be aware of which prescription drugs slow reaction times and cause fatigue;
- Work with others or, if this is not possible, arrange more frequent check-ins;
- Increase frequency of contact using a cellphone or radio;
- Allow any injuries time to fully heal and ensure ample rest. Assess abilities and limitations on a regular basis.