Communications are critical for safe farm operations. One often overlooked aspect of farm communications is check-in strategies. Farms are getting bigger, they are getting more equipment and doing more value added operations to increase profitability. Even smaller farms are doing their best to stay competitive and that can mean working alone or working in situations where you are nearby but not within earshot or visual range of another person.
There are two key parts of any check-in strategy: who is checking-in, and who are they checking-in with.
Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers — all need a strategy for checking-in, and steps to follow if check-ins are missed. Make sure you know who is checking-in with whom.
A check-in strategy has little room for assumptions. This is especially true when you have a number of people working on your farm.
It is our practice that one person is the designated check-in person. When we’re working with equipment, in the shop, fencing or working with livestock we have set check-in times and alternate times. Cell phones are a big help with this as you can text someone and they can text you back to let you know they are okay. It is wise, however, not to let technology become a replacement for actually setting eyes on a person to make sure things are okay.
If you watch the news, read on-line or even listen to the radio the majority of farm accidents happen when someone is working alone. And almost every story has a friend or family member saying, “If only someone had checked on them sooner.”
The time invested in creating a check-in strategy, and actually using it, is an investment in safety, in production and in overall farm well-being.
In an age of social media we are getting more and more accustomed noting where we are and who we are with. Encourage younger farmers to use this new habit to check in on one another. Spouses, parents, siblings and neighbours can all play a part in safety.
From the Alberta Farmer Express website: Set boundaries and be safe
Let’s take a look at three check-in scenarios that have really happened.
Scenario One: In the yard: My husband likes to work in the shop. What he goes out to do isn’t always what he ends up doing. Sound familiar? If I am in the yard working, in the house or even going to town for errands, we have an agreement to check in every hour or so. If I am home I physically go out and see. This is a great time to bring a drink if the weather is hot or the work is hard. I text when I am leaving town, so if I don’t arrive in the correct time frame he knows to call or text me, or come looking.
Scenario Two: Down the road: Working in a field that is nearby but not right in the yard requires a bit more co-ordination. Know the job being done and how long it should take and talk about when the check-in should happen. Often the check-in text or call comes, and your hands are full. Don’t put off letting your check-in partner know you’re okay as soon as you safely can. If two or more are missed in an agreed upon time frame then an in-person check should be done.
Scenario Three: Phone a friend: Whether he works 10 minutes from home or 10 hours away, we try to touch base at least once a day. Farming is a dangerous job, and knowing someone is safe is important. Not all employers are vigilant, and often are not aware of the dangers their workers face. If you cannot physically check on someone because of distance, have someone check on them for you if you have not heard from them. I used to be shy about asking a co-worker or foreman to do this, but it is every worker’s right to have a safe work place and it is an employer’s job to help create a safe work environment.
There are times when you know a neighbour is working on their equipment or in their field. Be a good neighbour and stop by to check on them. It only takes minutes for an accident to happen, and waiting for help to come can have tragic results. Over the years farmers have been trapped inside combines, balers, haybines and under equipment in fields visible from the road. Almost universally, the lament of friends and family was that they wished someone had thought to check on them.
As a farm family you want to know your family and friends are safe on the farm. Making safety a habit is good business, and shows you care.