Do your family members know how to shut off the tractor if you’re pinned in a machine and can’t move — or talk? It sounds simple but some basic response skills can save a life

Take some time to talk through potential emergency situations and some basic response procedures.

Prairie farmers know the hazards of handling large animals, dangerous substances and large machinery, and many have taken steps to improve the safety of their operations. But what if an emergency does happen? You need a well-developed plan to deal with it. Here are some simple tips on getting started with your plan:

1. Identify hazards. Sit down with family members and farm workers and make a list of all places where an emergency could occur. Your list should include places where:

—hazardous substances are stored or used (fuel, chemicals, fertilizer, vaccines, etc.)

—large or dangerous machinery is maintained or operated

—large animals are handled

2. Make a map. Once you’ve completed your list, mark these sites on a farm map. An up-to-date inventory of all hazardous substances stored is also a good idea. Add to your map the location of all emergency supplies (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, telephones, spill clean up supplies, etc.)

On a paper attached to the map, make a list of all emergency contact numbers including first responders, the phone numbers for your closest neighbours, and cell numbers for family members and farm workers. On this piece of paper, include your land location and clear directions to your farm.

Post copies of this map and plan at all hazardous storage sites, inside frequently used farm vehicles/ machinery, and by all telephones on site.

PRACTISE YOUR EMERGENCY RESPONSE

This written plan is just the first step in emergency response planning. The next and more difficult step is to ensure that all family members and farm workers know how to handle the various types of emergencies that could arise.

First, take some time to talk through potential emergency situations and some basic response procedures. Then do some hands-on training. Practise using fire extinguishers (hint: aim at the base of the fire) and turning off machinery. If you’re pinned in a piece of machinery, your family members need to know how to turn it off. Formal first aid training and chemical handling courses are also worth taking.

Planning and practising your response to emergencies takes time and effort but is just as important, if not more so, as having a written plan in place.

For Saskatchewan producers looking for assistance in developing an emergency response plan, the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Program is one option. This voluntary and confidential program helps producers think through their farming practices from both environment and health and safety perspectives. The EFP workbook includes a template for developing an emergency response plan. For more information on this program, visit www.saskpcabcab.com/efpor phone 1-866-298-7222. (Each province has its own EFP program. Call your provincial Agriculture Department to get the EFP contact person in your area, or go the federal Agriculture Department web site at www.are.gc.caand enter “National Environmental Farm Plan Initiative” in the search box. The national EFP webpage will give you a link to each province’s program.)

No one ever plans to have an emergency, but we can plan to limit the impact should one occur. The more we think about the possibility of an emergency, the more likely we are to prevent them from happening. Don’t wait for an emergency to occur to motivate you. Begin developing your emergency response plan today.

Joel Mowchenko is an environmental farm plan co-ordinator with the Provincial Council of ADD Boards (PCAB) in Saskatoon. You can reach PCAB at 1-866-298-7222 or www.saskpcab.com

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