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Ag Safety Week focuses on safety gear

Getting farmers and their workers to anticipate both the risks in a given task and the equipment they need to protect themselves on that job are the twin goals of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week.

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), working with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the federal agriculture department, Farm Credit Canada and other agencies, has picked PPE only works if you use it as the theme for the week, which runs from Wednesday until March 17.

CASA executive director Marcel Hacault, in announcing the theme for both the week and the association’s year-long 2009 campaign back on Jan. 15, said its purpose is twofold.

“The first part encourages producers to think through their work before starting so they can anticipate and correct any hazards that may occur,” said Hacault, a former chairman of the Manitoba Pork Council.

“The second part encourages producers to ensure the correct access, use, and fit of personal protective equipment (PPE), if needed.”

“Farmers and farm workers have a dual role in risk management,” Laurent Pellerin, the current CFA president, said in the January release.

“They can be a source of risk when they do things carelessly; and they are also the most important part of the strategy for dealing with risk. That’s why it is so important for owner-operators to lead by example and always insist that work is done safely.”

“Last line of defense”

Once a hazard is identified there are several things a farmer should do to correct it, CASA said: redesign the set-up; use less dangerous materials; change the work process or practices; change the equipment; and establish administrative controls or safety rules for workers.

When all else fails to eliminate a hazard, that’s when personal protective equipment is used to reduce the hazard to acceptable levels, CASA explained.

But “acceptable levels” of hazard differ for each person, depend on his or her training, work experience and physical capabilities, hence the importance of ensuring workers are properly trained to do their job and that the training is documented, CASA said.

PPE is meant to be “the last line of defense for safety,” CASA said.

The health and safety of workers is one of the most important things farmers can cultivate, the Nova Scotia government said in a separate release Monday to launch Ag Safety Week in the province.

“We encourage farm owners and managers to promote safe work practices on the farm and to correct any hazards as they occur,” Agriculture and Labour Minister Mark Parent said. “I also urge Nova Scotia farmers to use due diligence everyday and to create a culture of safety in the workplace.”

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