Technology has transformed farm safety, but not replaced common sense

MANITOULIN—Technology has played a transformative role in farming and that role seems to be expanding at the same breakneck speed impacting most of the rest of our modern lives. Critical in that transformation is the role that technology is playing in farm safety.

From high tech drones, modified from military use to agriculture in a modern day swords to plowshares metaphor that are being used to survey farms allowing farmers to check their far-flung fields and herds in comfort and safety, to rollover warning systems on tractors, through to more mundane technology such as self locking gates and feed fronts and a better understanding of safe animal handling practices, modern science has made farming safer—but it remains one of the most dangerous industries in the country.

Remote sensor technology, such as sensors in grain storage bins and placed in fields, can allow farmers to avoid dangerous situations that just a few years ago would have needed an eyes-on inspection with the chance of becoming stuck or buried.

Some of the best advances are things that would be considered by the uninitiated as deceptively low tech.

“I think one of the biggest things are the advances in animal handling practices and animal handling facilities,” said Tehkummah dairy farmer Jim Anstice. “It isn’t computer technology, but is has had a big impact.”

The changes have taken a lot of the bull work out of animal handling as well. “You aren’t wrestling the animals down by hand,” he said.

Education has also played a significant role in improving farm safety. “I think the community newspapers and the farm papers have done a good job in getting the word out,” said Mr. Anstice.

But all of that technology, the advances in safety equipment and procedures, don’t amount to a hill of beans if people do not use them or follow the best practices. “For all of the PTO shields, rollover bars on tractors (if you are wearing your seatbelt—and you are supposed to), you still hear about people being maimed and killed,” said Mr. Anstice. “It is easy to get complacent and to forget how dangerous it can be. A lapse of concentration easily can lead to a lot of sorrow.”