A Safe Farm Starts With Planning To Have One

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“You can’t control everything in agriculture so you should control all the things you can – and that starts with your own behaviour and the safety choices…“

– Sheldon Wiebe, Potato Farmer, MacGregor, Manitoba

Staff (with files from Canadian Farm Safety Week releases)

Sheldon Wiebe farmed with his father for years with no significant farm-related injuries. Then a devastating incident changed everything on their MacGregor, Manitoba potato farm. The young daughter of one of the farm’s workers lost her hand and forearm to a potato seed-cutting table. She’d been “helping” her father at the time. The manufacturer’s safety guards were in the right place. But the little girl’s curiosity led her too far.

The tragic lesson was that she should never have been anywhere near the equipment to begin with. The investigation that followed spawned a heartfelt commitment to safety on the Wiebe farm.

Sheldon signed on for the “Safe Farms Check Program,” one of about 60 Manitoba farmers who helped pilot the program and develop a guide in 2007.

The Safe Farms Check Program guide is now available online as a resource for all farmers to develop and implement a safe farm plan customized to their own farm.

Manitoba’s program is of many resources farm safety officials across Canada are flagging during this year’s Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, which runs from March 14-20.

PlanFarmSafety

PlanFarmSafety is the 2010 theme selected for a three-year campaign. This year the campaign will promote the “plan” aspect, emphasizing deliberate planning to create a safer work environment on the farm.

What does it mean to “plan for safety”?

It means stepping back and taking an objective look at how the job is done, to see where you put yourself and others risk on the farm, says Glen Blahey, Manitoba’s provincial farm safety co-ordinator.

“Planning for safety is anticipating what the consequences might be if something goes wrong,” he says. And that goes beyond just noting hazards in a safety audit, or a farm walkabout, and making mental notes to be more careful.

A safety plan is an assessment of risks and a plan of action to reduce those risks, Blahey says.

The Safe Farms Check Program was developed so no farmer need start from scratch to do this.

“The Safe Farms Check Program is really a recipe book, that any producer can take, start filling in the blanks and develop a plan particular to their operation,” Blahey says.

Alberta resources

In Alberta, resources farm safety specialists steer producers to to develop a safety plan include A Farm Employer’s Guide to Job Orientation and Safety Training, with a one-page checklist, a CD (or DVD) titled Farm Safety – It’s no Accident, and over two dozen fact sheets for downloading from the Farm Safety Centre website or requesting from their offices.

Put these resources together, and you’ve got your safety plan in place, says Laurel Aitken, Leduc-based farm safety co-ordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

What isn’t known is how many farmers have actually done so to date. “I talk to farmers who have every level of safety planning,” Aitken says. Large farms have safety and health plans implemented by their own safety staff.

But on smaller, family-owned

Resources for Developing Safety Plans

How does your farm safety knowledge rate? Try taking the FCC Farm Safety Quiz at

Alberta Resources:

A Farm Employer’s Guide to Job Orientation and Safety Training

Farm Safety – It’s No Accident in CD or DVD format (the DVD format]comes with a manual)

Farm Safety information including Safety Factsheets at

Contact: Laurel Aitken, Farm Safety Coordinator Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (780) 980-4230

farms, planning for safety is more likely about having a conversation about safety, says Aitken. “And they may not even be calling it a plan. Its verbal, but nothing formal. I suspect on quite a few farms that’s the way it’s done.”

Farm-safety specialists can only provide resources to stimulate those conversations and help plans get started, she adds.

Go through the steps This is what the annual Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is all about, says Marcel Hacault, CASA’s executive director in Winnipeg.

“Some producers feel that developing a farm safety program will create overwhelming paperwork – but that is not so,” Hacault says. “The idea behind the theme “Plan Farm Safety” is to offer a time period where farmers and ranchers can work with our campaign to go through the steps necessary to establish a practical farm safety program.”

Farm Safety week’s theme is strongly endorsed by farm organizations across the country. “We’re very supportive of this initiative, “ says Doug Chorney, a Manitoba farmer and vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers. “KAP members are injured and killed far too often because of farm safety challenges. And it’s a problem right across Canada. When you look at the statistics, it’s shocking, actually, how dangerous farming is.”

Every year in Manitoba about eight people die traumatically as a direct result of farm work. On average, 125 people are hospitalized because of farm work injuries. It is estimated an additional 5,000 or more seek medical aid on work related injuries and illnesses.

Across the country as many as 115 people are killed annually, and at least 1,500 are hospitalized for farm-related incidents, according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting program (CAIR). In 2006 a total of 13,801 Canadian farms reported one or more medically treated or lost-time injuries, Statistics Canada reports . Research done for CASA shows the cost of a farm injury can range from $700 for a non-hospitalized injury, to hundreds and thousands of dollars for a permanent disability or a death.

Several incentive-based safe farm programs are now being piloted across Canada, including Manitoba’s Safe Farms Check Program, plus others in Saskatchewan, Quebec and B. C. The Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA) in Saskatoon has proposed a Canada-wide study into how financial incentives might actually help reduce the current unacceptable death and injury rates in agriculture.

New reality On their farm, safety has become not just something done, but a way of thinking on, says Sheldon Wiebe, who, after his involvement with the Safe Farms Check Program, met with his farm staff to hear their ideas for make changes to improve safety.

Today the Wiebe’s potato farm has a written safety plan used throughout the entire farm enterprise.

“You can’t control everything in agriculture so you should control all the things you can – and that starts with your own behaviour and the safety choices you make as you do your work, “ Wiebe says.

“Safety requires more paperwork, but once you develop a plan – it is not so bad. A lot of the things we were doing anyway – we just document them now. The safety plan gives us a safer food product and a better place to work. This is the new reality for farming and there is more to come.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) deliver Canadian Farm Safety Week in partnership with Farm Credit Canada (FCC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“You can’t control everything in agriculture so you should control all the things you can – and that starts with your own behaviour and the safety choices…“

– Sheldon Wiebe, Potato Farmer, MacGregor, Manitoba

Staff (with files from Canadian Farm Safety Week releases)

Sheldon Wiebe farmed with his father for years with no significant farm-related injuries. Then a devastating incident changed everything on their MacGregor, Manitoba potato farm. The young daughter of one of the farm’s workers lost her hand and forearm to a potato seed-cutting table. She’d been “helping” her father at the time. The manufacturer’s safety guards were in the right place. But the little girl’s curiosity led her too far.

The tragic lesson was that she should never have been anywhere near the equipment to begin with. The investigation that followed spawned a heartfelt commitment to safety on the Wiebe farm.

Sheldon signed on for the “Safe Farms Check Program,” one of about 60 Manitoba farmers who helped pilot the program and develop a guide in 2007.

The Safe Farms Check Program guide is now available online as a resource for all farmers to develop and implement a safe farm plan customized to their own farm.

Manitoba’s program is of many resources farm safety officials across Canada are flagging during this year’s Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, which runs from March 14-20.

PlanFarmSafety

PlanFarmSafety is the 2010 theme selected for a three-year campaign. This year the campaign will promote the “plan” aspect, emphasizing deliberate planning to create a safer work environment on the farm.

What does it mean to “plan for safety”?

It means stepping back and taking an objective look at how the job is done, to see where you put yourself and others risk on the farm, says Glen Blahey, Manitoba’s provincial farm safety co-ordinator.

“Planning for safety is anticipating what the consequences might be if something goes wrong,” he says. And that goes beyond just noting hazards in a safety audit, or a farm walkabout, and making mental notes to be more careful.

A safety plan is an assessment of risks and a plan of action to reduce those risks, Blahey says.

The Safe Farms Check Program was developed so no farmer need start from scratch to do this.

“The Safe Farms Check Program is really a recipe book, that any producer can take, start filling in the blanks and develop a plan particular to their operation,” Blahey says.

Alberta resources

In Alberta, resources farm safety specialists steer producers to to develop a safety plan include A Farm Employer’s Guide to Job Orientation and Safety Training, with a one-page checklist, a CD (or DVD) titled Farm Safety – It’s no Accident, and over two dozen fact sheets for downloading from the Farm Safety Centre website or requesting from their offices.

Put these resources together, and you’ve got your safety plan in place, says Laurel Aitken, Leduc-based farm safety co-ordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

What isn’t known is how many farmers have actually done so to date. “I talk to farmers who have every level of safety planning,” Aitken says. Large farms have safety and health plans implemented by their own safety staff.

But on smaller, family-owned

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