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Make your New Year’s resolution an injury-free 2016

Get fit, spend less money, eat better and be kinder. These are all typical New Year Resolutions. Fuelled by the determination to get those six-pack abs — OK two-pack abs — we are excited to show the world (and more importantly, ourselves) that we can do it! We have the self-control, the energy and the pure will to make it happen. But, good intentions sometimes end up being just that. More often than not, we find ourselves around January 31 with a bowl of chips on the couch binge-watching the latest crime drama. Well, how about this year, make a resolution that you won’t break? One that is easy to keep? This year, make the resolution that your farming operation will be injury and fatality free in 2016.

Of course nobody thinks they or anyone they work with or care for is going to be hurt or killed. You hear it all time. Or you see it in action — people taking unnecessary risks. Alternatively, you hear people saying that accidents are complete surprises and you can’t see them coming. Before we make this resolution to have an injury and fatality free 2016, we need a reality check.

First of all anybody can be hurt or killed. It’s an unfortunate fact. There is great news though. Accidents are totally preventable. Preventable injuries and deaths don’t have to be your reality. Getting behind this idea is the very first step in having an injury and fatality free 2016.

Just like in any resolution, there are preparations to make. But instead of buying a treadmill and all the kale your shopping cart can carry, you need to take an assessment of your operation, yourself and those that work on your farm. Developing a farm safety plan is probably the best, more thorough, and to be quite frank, smartest ways to increase the likelihood of an injury- and fatality-free farm. A good plan has some basic components.

One of the most important parts of a farm safety plan is to know your responsibilities as a farm owner and operator. Your farm safe plan should meet or exceed the legislated health and safety requirements of your province. If you don’t know what they are, ask. Talk to your provincial regulator to verify local requirements. Not knowing or not understanding the law doesn’t excuse you from prosecution.

Another hallmark of a solid farm safety plan is a statement about why safety is important to you and your farm. Essentially this is what you’d say to someone if they asked about how you are keeping your family, workers and farm safe. This statement tells people about your commitment to safety and health. Saying it out loud (and writing it down!) it helps you guide your farm safety plan.

It doesn’t just stop with talking about and writing down your commitment for a safe farm operation. You also need to make sure to back this up with operational policies, like standard operating practices, training requirements and records, emergency plans, etc.

Hazard identification and control strategies are also parts of the plan. This doesn’t have to be done all at one time, probably you have more of this information locked into your brain, or someone else knows this stuff, but by taking the time to be purposeful, writing it down, taking a critical look at hazards and how exactly they can be controlled will make your farm safety plan that much more likely to reduce the possibility of injury or death.

Remember, even though you’ve worked on your plan, it has to be used and it has to be reviewed. A dusty binder on the top shelf in your office won’t protect you — you have to put your plan into action. If something doesn’t work, fix it! If a hazard changes, address it! If you get a new worker, train them, show them the plan. Use it or lose it!

An injury and fatality free 2016 is achievable. It’s something that we all want for all of ourselves and our loved ones. A farm safety plan is an excellent tool in achieving this. For more information about farm safety plans, visit CASA at casa-acsa.ca. From all of us at the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, we wish you a prosperous, healthy and SAFE 2016.

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