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Does your farm have a ‘safety helmet?’ It should

Taking a few simple steps can create an awareness of safety that is vital on every farm

Under a perfect fall sky, my grandson and I zigzagged the streets and zipped down back alleys of Montreal to the skate park.

As I watched my grandson, his seven-year-old bravado struck me. It was a side of this sensitive boy that I had not seen so boldly displayed before. Confident and courageous, he jumped, skidded, bumped down steps, crested hills, and made sharp turns on his bike.

What struck me was his amazing ‘try’ and I noted this with all the participants at the large cement park. For every successful manoeuvre, there were at least 10 failures or outright crashes. But again and again, the determined bikers and boarders got up to try.

It was to me one of those life lessons.

I thought of myself and my many failures, and of my growing or enlightenment and my desire to try again. In the country, on the farm, in the city, wherever we are — our life can mirror the challenges resembling a skate park even when the course changes. There is no certainty of a backstop as change is a constant. As I put on my helmet I thought of its importance.

In the skate park the helmet was to protect my head. I likened it to the putting on of a helmet on the farm. What is a farm helmet? What does it represent?

Like a helmet, good insurance protects us. This may not only be life or disability insurance, or fire or theft insurance, but also crop or price insurance. It is a tool we use to protect us. Managing both price and risk is important on the farm. Looking at locking in input costs when they are low may be beneficial, as may contracts that allow an acceptable margin. For every size of farm, there are ways to protect your family and your investment.

The helmet also represented wellness to me as it focused on prevention.

The prevention of our illness or collapse at home can be part of a mantra for living. Eating well and getting in some exercise, even if it is 10 minutes of stretching helps. Eating well also means having what it is that your body needs on hand. More than once I have been party to finding quick solutions when a diabetic farmer friend passed out.

The No. 1 fatality for women in Canada is a heart attack. I had the opportunity to have some long conversations with an experienced RN in cardiology this past summer. What he said surprised me. The prevention of heart attacks, he explained, was influenced largely by exercise and sleep. Taking breaks to walk for even 10 minutes and have a nap is equally important to men and women. The lack of sleep has also been directly tied to breast cancer. Women farmers need to ensure they have an opportunity for appropriate rest.

Disease work-related fatalities are increasing in Canada and having this awareness is important. I relate closely with asthma, and now live my life preventing an attack. As I farmed and worked long hours in dust and diesel, and in the bovine dairy and feed yard, my asthma took hold. Now I no longer can attend an indoor farm show or go into an underground parking lot. It is not that it is uncomfortable, it can be deadly.

Recognizing the changes in our bodies and what we need to do to control and prevent disease is critical.

Things do happen and as I thought of that helmet my grandson so lovingly adjusted on my head, the idea of prevention became so paramount.

Don’t go out without the proper lighting. Don’t put your kids in the grain cart. Don’t go round the clock without eating or napping. Don’t make your 10-year-old drive a three-ton truck. Don’t force cattle into a blind spot. Stop and think.

Ask yourself if everyone on the farm has first aid and if not, then why not. Not only does first aid potentially save lives, but it brings a new level of awareness to families and leads to the important conversations of who to call and what to do when life goes off the rails. Communicating where you will be on the farm, what you will be doing, how long it will take, and what the expectations of the day are create inclusiveness. As a farm family or farm team, you are in this together.

You would not attempt the skate park without a helmet, why would you attempt to farm without a wellness plan?

The skate park was new to me but my grandson reminded me it was my turn and so with helmet in place, and under the watchful eyes of that little boy, I jumped on the bike and aced the skate park. I had to ‘try’ — I would not be a farmer if I didn’t!

About the author

AF Columnist

Brenda Schoepp works as an international mentor and motivational speaker. She can be contacted through her website at www.brendaschoepp.com. All rights reserved.

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