Keeping farms safe during the anxious time of the pandemic

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ONTARIO – Amid COVID-19 anxiety that continues to impact workers across Canada, the agricultural industry continues to face shifting priorities, juggling mitigation efforts and workforce impacts with a litany of daily chores, maintenance and upkeep.

National Farm Safety Week is March 13-20 and the Canada Safety Council (CSC) and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) are reminding Canadians that farming continues to be one of the most hazardous industries in the country and that safety needs to be prioritized in the workflow.

“It’s been a challenging year for many of us and the agricultural industry is no exception,” said Gareth Jones, president and CEO of CSC, in a release. “Maintaining a high standard of safety should be ever present and continually reinforced in farm environments. In an industry of constantly shifting priorities it’s important to remember to brush up on the basics, too.”

Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting estimates an average of 85 fatalities every year on the farm. The most common cause, overwhelmingly, is machinery to the tune of 70 percent of all deaths on the farm.

These can include machine rollovers, where a vehicle is improperly balanced on a hill and rolls on its side, striking either the operator or anyone who is nearby. They can also include machine rollovers, where either a machine is left unmanned and rolls over its operator or the machine’s operator runs over someone in the vicinity.

“As a health and safety association dedicated to supporting the agricultural industry, we can’t highlight the importance of machine safety awareness on the farm enough,” says Lynn Brownell, president and CEO of WSPS. “Among the leading causes of Ontario farm-related fatalities, run-overs and equipment rollovers continue to be tragic occurrences. WSPS is proud to partner with CSC during National Farm Safety Week to bring awareness to this critical issue.” 

CSC recommends reading the manufacturer’s manual, ensuring machines are well-maintained and operating them according to the printed guidelines. CSC notes this is not the time or place to take shortcuts—losing a few minutes of daylight by taking the long way around a steep hill is preferable to losing time to injury or worse.

Make sure to give any machinery a wide berth while it’s being used, keeping the area around the machine clear of animals, children and adults alike.

It was stressed that children, especially, should have a clearly designated area safely away from the heavy equipment in which they can play or do chores.

Workplaces should be given a through visual inspection before starting, ensuring there are no broken parts or unsafe work habits going on that may lead to injury. Consult the farm safety audit at the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture for a useful guide.

WSPS has an extensive selection of resource and fact sheets for the agricultural industry, including a Farm Safety Checklist, COVID-19 resources and a series of farm safety instructional videos available.