The number of farm accidents is on the decline in Canada, but there are still many preventable injuries, according to safety experts.
“Certainly there are trends indicating improvement is occurring,” said Glen Blahey, agricultural safety and health specialist for the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association (CASA).
“More significantly is, in the last 10 years, there has been a noticeable shift in the number of children injured.”
Although the year-to-year numbers vary, over the 15-year surveillance period, 1990-2004, Canadian Agriculture Injury Reporting found the average annual number of child fatalities per year was13.9.
The average number of fatalities annually for the first seven years of the surveillance period was 16.4, whereas the average over the last seven years was 10.4. The overall trend showed a reduction in the number of agricultural fatalities in children from 1990 to 2004.
“Unfortunately, the number of injuries and fatalities in older farmers has gone up,” said Blahey. Over the 15 years, the average number of older adult fatalities was 40.
Although no one can put a price tag on health and life, there are estimates of the costs borne by farms.
An injury resulting in a brief time away from work typically costs an operation $700 in lost productivity, according to a study by the Canadian Agriculture Injury Surveillance Program (now CAIR) conducted a couple of years ago. An injury or illness resulting in hospitalization comes with a $10,000 price tag. A permanent injury or disability results in a $143,000 loss and a death results in a $275,000 loss to the farm.
“To make back what is lost in a hospitalization that farm operation would have to make an extra $100,000 that year, assuming that the farm could make a 10 per cent profit,” said Blahey.
“It just won’t happen. The cost is very significant.”
Canadian Agricultural Farm Safety Week, which runs from March 13-19, is a perfect time to start implementing health and safety standards on the farm. In 2010, CASA unveiled a three-year campaign called Plan Farm Safety. The program focuses on safety by putting an emphasis on managing business risk.
CASA wants people to “Make a commitment to safety,” said Blahey.
The website, http://www.casa-acsa.ca/, CASA provides resources to teach kids to be safe on farms as well as links to many Canadian websites that provide in-depth information to keeping farms a safe place to work and live.