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How to work safely alone

You’re a farmer. You often work alone and so do your family members and workers. Sometimes, you don’t see another soul all day and nobody even knows where you are. That’s just the way it is. But is it safe? You know the answer.

Sure, the relative safety of your situation working alone does depend on the circumstance — the type of work you’re doing, the location and the consequences of an emergency or injury. As a general rule however, on the farm, you need to make certain somebody responsible knows where you and your workers are at all times. And you need to set up a reliable system of regular communication.

First of all, consider the job you’re doing or assigning to a lone worker. What is its level of risk? Check for heights — confined spaces such as tanks, grain bins or culverts; power lines; hazardous substances or materials; hazardous equipment such as chainsaws or firearms; or high-pressure materials. Make sure you or your workers have the skills and equipment to do the job safely, alone.

Then establish a check-in procedure.

If you can use cell phones, make sure you or your lone worker has one and that the battery is fully charged. If a cell phone won’t work in the area, set up some other system of two-ways or walkie talkies. If the communication systems are located in a vehicle, provide something to cover working away from the vehicle.

If you have a smartphone and no coverage in the area in which you need to work alone, consider something like the SPOT Satellite system. Check it out at www.findmespot.ca/en/.

But before you get all wound up in technology, do something really simple. Leave a written record of exactly where you’ll be, when you’ll get there and when you’ll leave. Mark down how you’re getting to your job, which truck or quad you have.

Make sure there are emergency equipment and adequate supplies available for the lone worker — in the vehicle and on the job. Develop an emergency action plan to follow if your lone employee does not check-in when he or she is supposed to.

Now’s probably a good time to work out these safety procedures. They could be part of your overall farm safety plan. Your plan would outline the steps to ensure safety and good health for yourself, your family and your employees, working alone or not.

For a plan template, download a free, comprehensive and straightforward guide at www.planfarmsafety.ca. Look for the Canada FarmSafe Plan. Now that’s a plan! †

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