How to get started on your Farm Safe Plan
Ensuring your farm is as safe as it can be may be the last thing on your mind right now.
But it should be one of farmers’ top priorities, says Sherri Marthaller, Farm Safety Advisor with AgSafe Alberta.
“Having a farm safety plan in place is no different than having a plan to protect yourself from weather, market access issues and other common risks,” she says.
There are two main reasons to have a safety plan in place, she says.
First of all, to protect employees.
This should always be a top priority, Sherri says, but especially now as we are heading into the busy season.
“Many farmers don’t have resources in place to cover for employees that may get sick or hurt,” she says.
The second reason is that farm safety is just good business practice.
“Especially with new legislation in place, farmers are pretty exposed from a liability standpoint,” Sherri says.
This is why it’s especially important to understand what the risks are and make good choices around that.
But despite these important reasons, Sherri says many farmers still don’t have a farm safety plan in place, despite the fact that we are heading into the higher stress months of farming, when accidents are more likely to occur.
If you are one of these farmers, here are some simple steps you can take to get started.
- Visit the AgSafe Alberta website.
There are many resources on there to help get you thinking about farm safety, Sherri says, including an orientation to get you started on creating a plan, farm safety tips, hazard assessment examples, and more.
- Start customizing a plan for your farm
Every farm is different and has different safety requirements and considerations, Sherri says, which is why you need a custom approach. To help with this, AgSafe Alberta offers ten free hours of consultation for farmers with a safety advisor like Sherri. Visit the website to learn more.
- Be mindful of the most common high-risk on-farm hazards.
If nothing else, it’s good practice for farmers to always be aware of what the risks are, Sherri says. AgSafe Alberta has compiled a list of the common on-farm hazards that tend to yield the most severe injuries.
Some of the main ones are:
Heights – There’s always a danger of falling when you’re working on bins, roofs, etc., Sherri says. Your best option is to ensure these structures have the proper equipment to prevent falls, like railings and stairs, but if that’s not possible, have fall protection in place.
Energy isolation – Ensure that whatever you’re working on, such as augers, moving part belts, etc., aren’t energized, Sherri says. Unplug things or ensure no residual energy is remaining in the equipment before you start working on them.
“Moving parts are bad when body parts are involved,” she says
Electrocution -- Overhead lines – especially low-hanging ones -- are a hazard on many farms, Sherri says. In these cases, it’s best to eliminate the hazard altogether if possible, by burying them. If that’s not an option, substitute or engineer the lines out of reach as much as possible. If nothing else, ensure you have the proper protocols and training in place to keep workers safe.
Animal handling – Animals have a mind their own, Sherri says. The best way to deal with that is to ensure that people working with them have a general knowledge of animal behaviour and know the proper tools and practices to deal with them and protect themselves from uncontrolled behaviour.
Motor vehicles – Often farms and homes reside on the same land, which can put residents at risk with all the large farm equipment moving around the property. General rules for safety around this include having designated work zones, maintaining high visibility, and generally knowing who is working where at all times, Sherri says.