Seeding. Harvest. Calving. Silage. Haying. These are busy seasons. We should also consider these busy times a great opportunity to invest in the safety of our team.
Gearing up for the busy seasons often means getting equipment ready, preparing work areas and stocking up on supplies. Team members are coming back or are gearing up for a busy time.
This is a great time to slow down and think about the safety of your crew, your procedures and plans. What changes have you made over the winter to your equipment line up? Have you changed your strategy for handling chemicals? Are you adding new team members?
Check your safety plans. Do they reflect the year you have in front of you? Which SOP’s need to be updated for new equipment? Once you and your management team have taken a close look and made changes, take it to your working crew.
Provide the updated information and show them any new equipment. Explain and provide training for new procedures and practices. Check your first aid kits and safety gear. Everything should be in good repair, stocked properly and ready for use. Review each SOP as it relates to the current season’s work. Communicate your commitment to safety for your family and crew.
Don’t assume that your crew is as ready for the season as you are. Part of the post and pre-season preparations should be to establish your checklists and training calendar. Who needs to have first aid & CPR? Are applicators up to date?
Lead by example
The best owners and managers are leaders. They show the way and lead by example. If you are doing a first aid and CPR refresher have some people from your management team taking theirs as well. If you are reviewing safety procedures, involve all staff in the review. Post safety resources in a common area — including first aid tips, help line numbers and articles to encourage a culture of safety.
Address all concerns with respect. Don’t skip over things you think everyone should know — it is likely those very things need review most.
Ask your team how you can help make their workdays safer. Do they need access to different supplies in the first aid kit? Safety glasses? Maybe different gloves. Listen to the answers.
Slow is fast
Down time is the enemy of our busy season. It is a common temptation to rush to get going. Then there is pressure to stay on task and on schedule. This is understandable but it can impact our focus on safety.
Anyone who has worked with children or livestock knows that, often, the more you push for speed, the slower things actually go. Taking time to build solid safety programs and provide safety materials will seem slow. It will seem like a huge piece of time to spend on something that may seem unproductive. In reality more time is lost when you don’t make an effort to review, train and set up your team for success. Slowing down to ensure your team is trained, prepared and ready for the season will have positive benefits for everyone on your farm.
Mental health and safety is very important during our busy times. Everyone handles the pressures of the busy seasons differently. Some seem to thrive on the stress and pressure, but everyone has a point where they need a break. Supporting your crew when bodies are tired, minds are stressed and emotions are running high should be more than a passing consideration.
Planning for mental health breaks (stretching, meals out of the cab, rotating days off, even Slurpees on a hot day) and under- standing what supports your team members need is as much a part of your safety planning as physical safety considerations.
Everyone responds to stress differently. Be aware of changes in your crew so you can address them early. Some danger signs can be an open and talkative team member suddenly being quiet, or absences and late arrivals by usually punctual staff members. Arguing and discord in the group can be a sign that you have issues to address.
Having a unified team that works well and safely together is critically important. Their safety depends on it. Your business depends on it.