Alta. sees 19 farming-related deaths in 2008

Rural Alberta lost 19 people, including six children and five seniors, to farming-related fatalities in 2008, the province reported Monday.

The provincial agriculture and rural development department, which collects this data to better direct farm safety programming and resources, released its annual list just ahead of the start of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week on March 11.

The total number of documented farming-related deaths is up sharply from 2007, when the province saw 12 such fatalities, as well as from 2004 (16) and 2003 (14). However, the 2008 number is down from 20 in both 2006 and 2005, and 24 in 2002.

The 2008 statistics recorded six farming-related fatalities in August, three in May and two each in January, April and June.

Two of the deaths in August were in one Aug. 27 incident, where boys aged seven and six were asphyxiated after being buried in grain from a truck during unloading.

The youngest victim was a two-and-a half-year-old boy who died May 14 when he was thrown from an ATV that rolled on a river embankment while carrying “multiple persons,” the province said.

The oldest victim was an 83-year-old man who died Sept. 19 when a raised cultivator wing fell and crushed him.

“As you read through these statistics, think about how you can ensure that a similar tragedy does not occur on your farm,” said Raelyn Peterson, farm safety co-ordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development at Grande Prairie.

Lead by example

Peterson urged farmers to develop a safety plan for their farms, families and workers, and to resolve to lead by example.

“Develop a farm safety plan that outlines the possible hazards for all areas of the farm,” she said in a provincial newsletter Monday. “Eliminate all possible hazards and decide how to manage others such as providing personal protective gear or fencing off hazardous areas.”

Among the strategies to reduce hazards, the province urged farmers to completely shut down and lock out equipment before starting any repairs, meaning to bleed out pressurized hydraulics, release pressure from coils or springs, or block up parts that are under tension or pressure.

Farm machinery should be maintained in good working order with all safety devices, guards and shields in place and working properly, the province said.

To protect children, safe and fenced play areas should be created, well away from the working areas of the farm. Tempting areas such as dugouts, retaining ponds and manure pits or lagoons should be fenced off and buildings containing hazardous goods should be locked.

Farmers and farm workers should always tell co-workers or family where they will be working, the province said, and workers should be checked up on regularly, more so for those who are young, elderly or inexperienced. Cellphones or radios should be kept at hand for emergencies.

Also, the province said, farmers should “commit to providing appropriate personal protective gear for all hazardous tasks on the farm. Set an example by wearing the gear in all situations.”

The theme for Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, and for this year’s national farm safety campaign, is PPE only works if you use it. The theme is meant as a reminder for farmers and workers to anticipate risks and to always use proper, well-fitted personal protective equipment (PPE) as the “last line of defense” when all else fails to eliminate a hazard.

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