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Injured on the farm? Farm Safety Program wants to know

Manitoba Farm Safety Program wants to hear about incidents so it can post preventive bulletins

The Manitoba Farm Safety Program (FSP) wants farmers to tell it about the injury-causing incidents and near misses that occur on their farms.

That information could help others avoid the same mishaps by helping its program do more preventive programming, said FSP program director Keith Castonguay.

The FSP launched in 2017 through Keystone Agricultural Producers and it’s looking for ways to hear and tell the bigger-picture farm safety story, he said.

They suspect there’s potentially a lot more incidents occurring on Manitoba farms than they ever hear about, said Castonguay.

The only stats available on farm injury are what’s reported to the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB), he said.

“On our website you’ll find the Workers Compensation record of reported injuries,” he said. “But we know that about 80 per cent of farmers don’t report. Not everyone pays into WCB so not everyone reports injuries.

“How do we focus on the programs that are meaningful to a farmer if we don’t know what’s happening?” he said.

“There really is very little that comes out, or we’ll hear about it well after the fact. We had a bale fall on a person last year and we heard about it three months afterwards.”

If farmers would voluntarily share more information about circumstances that resulted in an injury, offer a cautionary message to go with it and do so in a timely fashion, it would help the FSP put out advisories to others working at similar jobs, Castonguay said.

The FSP has a link on its website where farmers can submit information about what happened. Names and specific locations of any reports received are kept strictly confidential.

A good example of timely sharing of information was last spring when a farmer, who’d been taking some video of pulling a truck out of the mud, was able to capture what happened when bolts broke on the truck being dislodged and the tow rope and hook hurled like a slingshot at the tractor.

The hook just missed going through the cab window and the farmer narrowly avoided serious injury. The video got people talking about the risks using tow straps that don’t stretch, as well as the recommended usage of flexible, looped-end recovery straps instead.

It’s these kinds of things they’d like to hear more about, said Castonguay.

They’d also like to hear more farmers posting about things they do on their farm that have made work safer, he added.

“What we’ve been doing in the last year is trying to find what programs we need to provide that resonate with the farm community,” he said.

Safe Work Manitoba chief operating officer Jamie Hall says the FSP’s call-out for more reporting of incidents is a good idea.

WCB data shows the most common types of injuries in agricultural worksites include being struck by objects, ‘bodily reaction’ injuries, and getting hurt from tripping and falling, he notes. The types of injuries on non-WCB farms are likely similar, he added.

All farmers are encouraged to sign up for WCB coverage and can do so if they choose, but coverage is only mandatory for farms that have one or more employees.

There are currently 1,630 active agriculture accounts with the WCB in Manitoba.

Glen Blahey agricultural safety specialist with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) said farmers do talk among themselves about incidents that happen.

“There’s the coffee shop chit-chat,” he said. “But there’s always things that happen that aren’t told anywhere.”

There is however, ongoing documentation of injuries sustained on Manitoba farms requiring hospitalization. These are forms which are filled out at admission that include a place to indicate the site the injury occurred, providing a long-term record of farm-based injuries.

“There are reporting pro­cesses in place to capture the data,” he said.

“The challenge is to access the data and analyze it,” he said, adding Manitoba Health is cautious about releasing data to protect people’s privacy.

Work he and provincial epidemiologists did several years ago, to comb through provincial injury data, ultimately provided science-based evidence to support a provincial grant program in the mid-2000s that helped farm families offset some of the costs of constructing fenced safe play areas to prevent youngsters from wandering into dangerous areas.

The Canadian Agriculture Injury Surveillance Program (CAISP) and Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) was established in 1995 and provides ongoing comprehensive accounting of fatal and hospitalized agricultural injuries in Canada. It releases public reports that help guide farm safety programming.

More information on submitting information to the FSP can be found on the Manitoba Farm Safety Program website.

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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