Written policy can enhance safety on farm

Farmers should write out a policy statement and rules for safety, signing and dating the document, according to provincial farm safety co-ordinator, Glen Blahey.

Using a good dose of “down on the farm” stories of his own to help him deliver his safety message to farmers, Blahey encourages producers to think forward in terms of their farm and safety. “It’s better than looking back and saying, wow I lost a day on that,” he said.

With a safety policy in writing, visitors, contractors or hired help can be certain what the expectations are.

When giving his session at the recent Farm Safety and Health seminar at the Greenwood Inn in Winnipeg, one of the participants balked.

“Farmers don’t sign things like that,” she said.

Blahey is aware of “old school” thinking, but said signed safety policies ensure that everyone involved in the operation of the farm understands the correct procedure. “You may know your farm intimately, but your kids and your employees don’t,” he said.

Hazards overlooked

Farmers at the meeting admitted they overlook what might be an obvious risk and expressed a guarded desire to have an outside assessment done. “I might have a hose on the floor of a shed and step over it every day, but a visitor would wonder why it’s there,” said one.

Blahey said farmers should make an inventory of risks of their farm, starting with each crop that is planted, the chemicals applied and the equipment that is used. Then identify the risks with each. These risks could include, is the equipment in good working order? Do you have safety equipment and procedures for the chemicals? Are you working with good lighting?

When loading or unloading, Blahey encouraged farmers to establish perimeters. For example, helpers are frequently injured because they are standing too close when bales are being handled by equipment. Last year three people were injured with broken bones due to falling hay bales.

Age appropriate

As part of the safety plan, it is important to consider the frailties of the person doing the chore. An aging farmer, might have arthritis, lack of mobility and declining agility affecting his or her abilities. Blahey said it is difficult for young farmers working with once capable fathers.

Blahey said that farmers must also assess accidents to find out where things went wrong. While blame might be easy, he noted “there is usually 15 to 20 factors leading to the incident.”

“Keep asking yourself, what if?” said Blahey.

He urged farmers to have good safety equipment and a first aid kit handy. When first aid training is offered within the area of the producer’s farm, he urged the farmer and family or employees to take the opportunity.

He related another story about a terrible tragedy involving an older farm couple. The farmer was in the habit of working long hours, often alone, with no means of communication, late into the night. One evening he had an accident. When his wife found him he was still alive, but she didn’t know what to do.

Tragic consequences

By the time help arrived, they were attending a death. Blahey said people who take first aid or first-on-the-scene training are less inclined to panic.

Blahey said a good employer empowers his family workers or his employees to respond to emergency situations. If you take the time to train an employee and have him or her sign off on the training, there are less likely to be problems or issues surrounding liability.

And he encouraged review and revision every year, including the date and signature every time.

Producers wishing to upgrade their safety knowledge can take advantage of government programs.

The Manitoba government offers training for machine operation, ATVs for farm work, low-stress livestock handling, horse handling, and first on the scene. People were invited to contact their GO office or phone Blahey directly.

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