The four ‘whats’ and four ‘hows’ of farm safety

Asking some very simple questions can take you a long way in making the farm safer

The four ‘whats’ and four ‘hows’ of farm safety
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Putting farm safety practices in place takes time and commitment.

But many best practices don’t necessarily have to be formal or difficult, said Alan Quilley, a safety expert for more than 40 years who has helped some of the biggest employers in Canada build their safety cultures.

He calls his model an integrated safety management system. It comes down to four ‘whats’ and four ‘hows.’

The four ‘whats’ are: Company culture, safe behaviour, accountability and safe environment.

“The ‘whats’ are pretty simple,” he said. “What kind of place is it to work here? Do we have a safety culture? Do we have an accountability system of who’s doing what? Are we holding ourselves accountable? Do we have a safe environment? Do we have the right tools and equipment? Do we have safe behaviours?”

The four ‘hows’ are: Encouraging, engaging, evolving and measuring progress based on evidence.

“Are we encouraging our fellow workers to work safely? Are we engaging them in the process? Are we evolving over time — are we getting better? Are we using our own evidence to see that we’re working more safely than we were yesterday? Are we having safety meetings? Have we got an investigation process should you have a failure?”

Because he operates a small business himself, Quilley said he understands the trepidation that comes with the prospect of spending time and cash on safer practices and tools.

But there are things producers can do that don’t take much of either.

“I don’t have binders and binders full of policies, but I do have some things that I’m committed to such as not doing things that are unsafe,” he said. “That’s the company culture at my place of work. I’m going to take the time to make sure I have the right tools to do my job. I’m going to hold myself accountable for the kind of activities that have to happen.

“I know when I’m going to do certain things and measure that I’m doing them right. If I’m not, I try to fix them.”

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