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February 25, 2022

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The Canadian agriculture community was rocked a few years ago when a farmer was charged and convicted following the tragic death of his son in a farm vehicle incident.

While we all felt empathy for this poor soul held responsible for this tragedy as well as their loved ones, it represented a major change in how health and safety on farms is being recognized and responded to by government bodies including the legal system. 

It also caused us to take pause and consider ways to prevent any similar devastating incidents from happening again. To not accept that what occurred ‘just comes with the territory’ of the farm life. 

Stop Think Act Methodology Can Help

In our search for new ways forward, one approach that is gaining traction is Stop Think Act, a methodology that can play a pivotal role in any farm health and safety plan.

The concept revolves around a three step process that is remarkably universal in its application and includes many facets of farming including machinery and equipment use. One example relates to the use of new equipment. It’s always exciting to take delivery and get it into operation. 

Before doing so, stop. Ask yourself if there are any new hazards associated with this new equipment to consider. 

Then think. If it’s a new spray boom or grain auger, could it be longer than the one it is replacing? If there are overhead power wires, could this new piece of equipment come into contact with them, energize the equipment and cause anyone on board to sustain a potentially fatal shock? 

Finally act. Review the documentation associated with the equipment and find definitive information on how high it is at full extension and determine if it needs to be retracted before it has to pass under any overhead wires.

Consider the People Involved

And while the above example relates to equipment, the Stop Think Act method also applies directly to people.

For example, a young worker who grew up on a farm volunteers to move a grain auger to a nearby field, a task she performed numerous times back on her home farm.

Before you give the go ahead, stop. Assess the situation and the potential for problems.

Think. It might be a good idea to find out more about her experience.  Ask about the specific experience she has. What kind of equipment she drove. It may turn out that the farm she grew up on had all electrical wiring buried and she has absolutely no experience dealing with overhead wiring. 

Then act.

Your family, your employees and everyone who visits the farm will appreciate your diligence in ensuring their experiences are positive every day.

OMAFRA is providing funding to Workplace Safety & Prevention Services to deliver resources and consulting services to help farmers and other agri-food businesses provide safe workplaces.

For free online resources relating to farm safety, visit:  https://engage.wsps.ca/safer-farming-2022

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Submitted by Karen Davidson on 25 February 2022