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Safety message tough sell

For the province’s farm safety co-ordinator, throwing a Farm Safety and Health meeting once meant booking a hall, picking up dozens of doughnuts and a coffee urn, then presenting to a near empty room.

Glen Blahey quickly learned not to take the low turnouts personally. Having a farm background himself, he knows that while most farmers feel they run a safe operation, they are reluctant to hear about changes.

However, a Farm Safety and Health Seminar held in Winnipeg Nov. 6 and 7, was well attended considering the bad weather. According to counts from Keystone Agricultural Producers, 45 producers registered with only three no shows.

And while the numbers were not stellar, Blahey is happy to get the message to any farmer who will listen.

Doug Chorney, chair of the safety committee for KAP said every statistic represents a “preventable injury.”

While many farmers fear the inclusion of the mandatory Workers Compensation Board inclusion, he said it will actually go a long way to protect the farmer and his operation from liability.

With or without WCB, Chorney said farming safely should be thought of in a different way.

Blahey wondered if there would be a way to rebrand the safety message and admitted to using different topic names to get his audience to hear him out.

“If I’m the last speaker at a conference, I see people slipping out after the afternoon break,” he said.

But at this conference, all about safety, attendees stayed put.

KAP general manager Yvonne Rideout used the end of the second day to elicit feedback from participants looking for ideas to help producers adopt better safety practices and for ideas for resources for them.

Many producers seemed to want an approach similar to the Environmental Farm Planning workshops. They wanted help identifying hazards with the promise of confidentiality. Producers also wanted the freedom to deal with the hazard as they see fit or as they could afford it.

Some suggested that incentive programs could help farmers introduce more costly safety measures.

Marcel Hacault, executive director for Canadian Agricultural Safety Association said “old habits” is one of the leading factors that prevent safety.

Some farmers protest that it takes more time to adopt safe habits. That gets no argument but shortcuts can lead to accidents.

“To farm safely, the shortcut does not take you home,” said Rob Brunel, vice-president of KAP.

According to CASA’s studies of the problem, drivers for making a change to safer practices are, loss of productivity, protecting young families and first-hand experience with an accident.

Hacault said about 30 per cent of Manitoba farmers are expressing an interest in some farm safety training, but only 15 per cent have a formal safety program.

Most express an interest in first aid training and how to work with children on the farm. Others are concerned about liability.

“No farmer wants to be on the front page of the newspaper,” he said.

Brunel said he didn’t always think of safety first. But after marrying and becoming a daddy for the first time, the Ste. Rose-area farmer now looks at things differently.

“Here are my reasons for farming safely,” he said while displaying a photo of his family.

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