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Safety on your farm: it’s not hard

Building a safe farm operation may seem overwhelming; it’s just a change of attitude

Having a safe farming operation is not as hard as it seems. It starts with a change of attitude — letting go of old traditions and habits. Considering how serious our work is, how seriously we should take the safety of our workers and family, and how seriously we need to take the impressions we leave with business partners, consumers and the public.

How do we do this? We do this by making jobs safer. The push back in some areas against legislation and the reluctance to engage in the safety conversation has to stop.

I have heard time and time again how safe people believe our farms to be. How they don’t need anyone telling them how to be safe. How they want to be left alone to do their jobs. My reply is “Show me the data.” Prove your safety record. As we tell every kid in every math class, show your work.

Farming is time sensitive. We have small windows for in season work. We have one chance to make the pay day happen. None of those statements are untrue. But none of them invalidate the need for a safety culture and language. None of those statements prove we are safer than other industries. How many farms track and post their number of “Incident Free Days” or “Days Lost Due to Injury?” Maybe we should.

Count those small injuries. Those near misses that often become legend at coffee time have a place on the Safety Triangle. The essence of the Safety Triangle is this: the biggest influence on safety for any industry is people and their actions. The second biggest influence is the ratio of near misses to injury incidents to serious or fatal incidents.

We can use experience and research from other industries to make agriculture safer for everyone. Why don’t we? Agriculture is a highly dangerous field of work, stressful and with hazards many people cannot even comprehend. What we need is a change of language to one where investing the time to be proactive and safe is not only encouraged, but expected. This language needs to be used at a peer level, where managers talk about how the near misses have dropped, how the training is making the bottom line stronger. Potential new hires need to see us caring for their health and safety.

Make safety a part of your day and make Farm Safety Week a time when we can share our successes. Make it a zero incident day, month, year. Celebrate that.

A note about the author of Grainews‘ safety features

You’ve been reading my safety articles for Grainews for the past few years, but you may not know why I am so passionate about farm safety, as a mom, a farm wife and as a communicator.

I was the kid who wanted playgrounds, field trips and classrooms to be safe. I did my own accident reports on playground incidents. Yeah, that kid. But then I became a fire fighter, a captain and a training officer. Safety became a professional goal, a responsibility to a community and my crew, and to bystanders and other responders.

My passion for safety and sharing knowledge led me to work for a federal R&D project on animal emergency response. Over seven years we worked with an international working group to find ways to train responders, owners and transporters about planning, response and prevention.

I have embraced social media and con- tinued to write since I was literally a kid on a newspaper. Writing for research, reas- sessing and writing emergency planning documents, creating documents and assessing materials for other organizations led me to write for PetMatchMaker.com about safety and emergency planning, along with blogging as a guest writer and on my own blogs. That also led me to write for Grainews.

Working on and having a spouse managing many types of farms, and spending time with Aggies (U of M) honed my understanding of farm safety expectations and the reality. There are variables in farming, in agriculture, that change daily, hourly or even minute-by-minute. Our dedication to being safe, to having an active safety culture does not.

My perspective on safety is so very simple: make it part of the daily conversation. With your family. With your workers. With your community.

While Farm Safety Week comes around only once a year, it is a daily consideration for my family. Not just because I am a complete safety geek, but because it is good for our family, good for our farms and good for business.

If you have topics you’d like to learn more about, share them with me. If you know of someone doing something in moving farm safety to the next level I’d love to talk to them.

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