Most of us want to do the right thing. And most of us do it. Including farmers.
Take a look at the numbers from the 2008 farm safety report card gleaned from Farm Credit Canada’s online survey of Canadian farmers. It suggests that three out of four Canadian farmers replace guards on machinery such as augers and PTOs. Seventy-nine per cent of them train new workers in good safety practices. Eightynine per cent handle equipment safely, and 93 per cent work hard to keep their kids safe on the farm.
Most farmers incorporate good safety practices into their work every day. That’s what the numbers say. They paint a positive picture of safety habits on most Canadian farms. Yet those same farmers told the same surveyors that while safety is a priority on their farms, they don’t believe most farmers pay enough attention to it.
Their general perception of farmers is that old habits, lack of time and high costs of safety modifications prevent most farmers from paying enough attention to good safety practices. Most farmers who replied to this survey thought most farmers take safety shortcuts to get the job done.
But the survey results clearly show that most farmers do the right farm safety thing. They may not have a detailed safety plan and they admit to working too long when they’re too tired, but most of them practise good farm safety. They’re farm safe. That’s something to celebrate.
And yet — we know that over 100 people — young, mature and in between — will die on Canadian farms this year. So what’s to be done? Would broadcasting to one and all the positive attitude and practices that farmers do in Canada’s farming community help all farm families farm safely?
Perhaps it’s worth a try. At least that’s what Jeff Linkenbach and his team from Montana State University told about 150 participants at the Montana Summer Institute this July. Linkenbach is the director of MOST of U. S. at the Centre for the Study of Health and Safety Culture at Montana State University. He’s also the leader of a Positive Community Norms (PCN) team.
He says upfront that PCN is an evolving and growing field of research and practice but he holds that challenging people’s commonly held perceptions about their environment and the behaviour of their peers will build the energy and willingness of the community to engage in healthier, safer behaviours.
For instance, you know, and ag-safety professionals do too, that statistics of fatalities on the farm and photos of tractor rollovers are not enough to change your behaviour and make you safer on the farm. It can’t happen to you, right? But there’s increasing research to show that you will be interested in changing your behaviour if you know most of your peers are changing, or are already practising the safer behaviour.
You’ll be hearing and seeing more of this positive attitude in ag safety messaging throughout the country in the next few years. It’s already in use in the U. K. where a video “Embrace Life” has gone viral — and has made a safety difference. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=h-8PBx7isoM.
And think of it when you get in the tractor or the combine. Most farmers do!
Check out the numbers in the FCC Farm Safety Report Card linked from the home page of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association at www.planfarmsafety.ca.