Farming today is much different than it was in the past. The vast array of knowledge and access to information can be overwhelming. The temptation to use a template and do the “bare minimum” for a farm safety plan is great. There is also a temptation to skim the safety-related materials provided with chemicals, equipment and machinery.
There are resources available, a dizzying array actually, from cropping advisors to grain marketers to chemical reps and equipment dealers. Farmers who are actively engaged in producing thorough safety plans for their farming operations should take advantage of relevant resources when they are available to them.
One example is to take advantage of annual training for seeding, spraying and harvest equipment. Make sure your staff attend these training sessions and you get all the materials available for follow up after the training. Dealers have an investment in your business and its success; use that to your advantage in gaining access to materials for training and safety. Be sure to have specific training for your specific equipment, machinery and farming systems.
Input companies can also be great resources for safety materials, including updated MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for chemicals and inputs you are currently using. They also can aid in safely disposing of old inputs. Often your sales rep will be accommodating and willing to provide access to safety training materials, or even bring that training right to your staff.
There are many safety steps farmers can take to keep workers safe. Some of them are easily overlooked because of the owners and managers intense familiarity with their farming operations. Completing farm safety assessments and individual assessments on equipment and tasks are critical.
Take that first step
A good first step is a Farm Health & Safety Checklist (downloadable from safemanitoba.com) as well as completing SAFE Farm Procedure and Critical Job Inventories for each task, and each operation on the farm. While it seems overwhelming, and perhaps unnecessary, it is critical to examine individual job to assess safety, the safety of the equipment and machinery and make sure everyone understands the steps needed to complete tasks safely.
When doing these tasks it is important to assess the most important tasks on your farm each season, then assess the most to least dangerous. By replicating the steps to complete each job, and examining your own farm operation for safety, you may see hidden dangers you have become accustomed to over time.
Dr. Temple Grandin often talks about the “new normal” that can appear in unsafe situations. This happens when something isn’t good (safe) gradually becomes a norm because behaviour adapts to it rather than changing it. Perhaps it is a finicky auger, a sticky PTO, or a sparky outlet in the farm shop. With a thorough assessment of the farming operation these “new normal” situations can be both identified and corrected.
When creating a farm safety plan it is important to understand the important thing about the farm safety plan is that it is for your farm. Not a made up farm or template farm. Customize it for your operation and make it work for your staff, and in compliance with your provincial regulations.