Be a better role model and set a higher standard for safety on your farm.
That’s the message of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, which kicks off in Prince Edward Island next week, urging farmers and those who work with them to become safety champions.
The education campaign, held each year on the third week of March, urges farmers and their families to improve their practices and procedures to bring down the high rate of accidents that every year kill or maim farmers across the country.
Its 2015 theme ‘Be the Difference’ is meant to inspire the farm community, through testimonials and other resources, to take up the cause for improved safety.
“This year, we are focusing on the power of the positive,” said Marcel Hacault, executive director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, which works in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to bring safety week each year.
A Manitoba farm family is the featured safety champion in this year’s national campaign.
The Nadeau Farm, located just outside Fannystelle, is a fourth-generation family farm that has set a high bar for safety, has a formalized health and safety program, holds monthly safety meetings with employees and has developed an official manual detailing safe work procedures for different farm equipment.
A major initiative in Manitoba this year is Keystone Agricultural Producers’ ambitious plan to have farmers become more proactive about safety, using the resources of a consultant who can advise farmers how to bring their farms into compliance with Workplace Safety and Health legislation.
Farms have been under this legislation since 1977 but KAP sees a need for more farmers to be better informed about what’s required of them to comply, said KAP president Dan Mazier during a Brandon safety workshop in mid-February.
Farms are also very different than a generation ago, now often employing staff who operate large and sophisticated farm equipment.
“We’re modernizing and with that comes these responsibilities,” Mazier said. “We have an obligation as an employer or as a business owner to have a certain standard.”
More work to do
CFA president Ron Bonnett urged farmers to work harder on improving the industry’s safety record.
“Injuries on the farm are no joke, and they happen much more often than they should. We need to work together so that farm safety is acknowledged as important and change ensues,” Bonnett said in a release.
Canada’s safety record on farms is improving but the numbers still indicate that agriculture is an extremely dangerous occupation. In 2013 the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) reported the rate of agricultural fatalities in Canada has declined by 38 per cent from 1990 through 2008, with the most encouraging shift occurring in the second half of the study. Throughout the 1990s, an average of 118 people died on farms each year. After 2000, that number dropped to an average of 89.
But even one death is one too many. Agriculture still ranks No. 1 for workplace fatalities in Manitoba. Twenty-six persons died on farms between 2009 and 2013 and each year there are hundreds more injuries resulting in lost days of work or sending people to hospital, said Jeff Shaw, Manitoba’s SAFE Farms co-ordinator. In 2012 alone there were 60 hospitalizations, and 50 the two previous years.
“We’re not talking about cuts and scrapes here,” said Shaw. “These are the amputations, broken bones, concussions, electrocutions.”
Shaw urged farmers at the Brandon workshop to give new employees a workplace orientation that explains safe work procedures and identifies job hazards. Other good practices are regular postings on a safety and health notice board, holding safety meetings, and giving positive recognition to employees when they adopt safe work habits.
“It’s about walking the talk and leading by example. You have to demonstrate your commitment,” he said.
“If you really don’t believe in safety and you bring in a person and say, ‘They tell me I have to do an orientation, so here’s the sheet and read that and sign off…,’ that’s not leading by example.”
Agricultural Safety Week is supported by Growing Forward 2 and sponsored by a large number of key agribusinesses including FCC, Imperial Oil, Ag for Life, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, DuPont Pioneer, Viterra and Brandt.
Canadian Ag Safety Week resources are found at agsafetyweek.ca.