Safety Record On Canadian Farms Improving

Fewer farmers and their family members are being killed on Canadian farms, a new report says.

It may be because farmers take safety more seriously nowadays.

Fatal agricultural injury data from 1990 to 2005 recently released by the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program (CAISP) show a small but steady decline in the number of agricultural deaths over the past 16 years, including fewer deaths among farm children.

In six out of the last eight years, for example, farm-related fatalities have dropped below a 110-per-year average to anywhere between 105 and 89.

That is not a “statistically significant” decline, said Mani toba-based Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) executive director Marcel Hacault. “But the trend is moving lower.”

Safety Record /

“It’s not just that ‘shit happens’ anymore. Now it’s ‘ok, yes, it’s a dangerous place, but we can do something about it.’”

And attitudes toward safety are changing. In a survey of 9,000 primary producers done by FCC and CASA earlier this year, 83 per cent said they believed safety was important.

More than eight out of 10 surveyed say they practise safe equipment handling and safe livestock handling. They also said they train family members on a regular basis and take precautionary measures to protect their kids, including keeping play spaces on farms separated from the work spaces.

What’s changing is how farmers perceive safety, Hacault said.

“It’s not just that ‘shit happens’ anymore. Now it’s ‘ok, yes, it’s a dangerous place, but we can do something about it.’”

Intention versus action

Still, a gap does remain between intention and action. The FCC survey also shows few farmers (15 per cent) actually have any form of safety plans in place. A safety plan includes training procedures for those working on the farm, protective personal equipment, or emergency plans. Many farmers also admit they work when very tired (66 per cent) and just one in three say they try to manage stress.

Nine out of 10 of those fatally injured in farm work were boys and men, with over 95 per cent of those 65 years of age or older. Fatality rates were lowest for adults of normal working age, though they had the greatest exposure to the hazards of agricultural work.

NEAR MISS

The main barriers to working more safely, farmers surveyed said, are old habits and time constraints.

Farmers need to work in less hurried ways, and make sure complacency doesn’t lead to unnecessary risk-taking, Hacault said.

“Plan so you don’t have to take that little shortcut that exposes

– Marcel Hacault, Executive Director Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (Casa)

you to risk. And complacency is something that creeps up. It usually takes that near miss for you to wake up.”

In the 16 years from 1990-2005, 1,769 people were killed in agricultural injury events in Canada. The data shows agricultural injuries are not due to random or isolated “accidents.” Rather, there are recurrent – and preventable – patterns of injury.

Most fatalities (71 per cent) involved use of agricultural machinery. Rollovers account for almost a quarter of the deaths. Machine runovers are just slightly behind. If more producers made sure all their tractors had rollover protection and seatbelts, it would go a long way toward making farm work safer, Hacault said.

So would parents keeping all children under 12 from operating tractors of any size. There’s still a view held that a kid needs to operate the tractor to learn to love farming, he said.

“I think the kids can learn to love agriculture without being put in charge of running a 300-hp tractor.”

Those surveyed by FCC were members of its national online research panel with more than 9,000 members.

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association is a non-profit organization headquartered in Winnipeg and a national agricultural safety agency helping producers recognize and manage risk in the agricultural workplace.

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About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

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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