Opinion: You say safety is a priority, but the stats tell a different story

Farm accidents will spike in these hectic and stressful months so please give safety more attention

The ag industry has become a lot safer in recent decades, but farm accidents are still occurring in numbers that demand our attention.

I am sure I am not alone in saying that COVID-19 has dominated my thoughts, conversations, plans, work and social life for the past year.

We all hoped we would have moved past this point by now — and while we are getting closer, we are not there yet.

With all the (rightful) attention being given to COVID concerns and safety practices, I do have something else that keeps me up at night. It is a concern that I hope would occupy all your minds, as well.

Our industry has become a lot safer in recent decades, a trend that farmers and our communities deserve a lot of credit for. Unfortunately, we also know that farm accidents are still occurring, in numbers that demand our attention and warrant our concern.

Let’s face it — the work we do can be dangerous.

We work, often alone, with large-scale and often complex machinery as well as with other equipment that can cause injury and animals that can behave in sudden and unexpected ways. There are not always safety protocols and mechanisms in place, or followed, on farms. We work long days and long hours during busy seasons — and carry an uncommonly high amount of stress.

While we often think we work safely, as we get tired or stressed we pay less attention to safety.

As seeding kicks into high gear and ranches are calving and branding, we can find ourselves getting busy and getting stressed. And that is when accidents happen. In fact, we see injuries spike on farms and ranches in May and June.

So with this in mind, I encourage all of our farming communities to do a couple of things.

First, as you welcome staff and contractors back onto your operations this spring, take a moment to stop and refresh them about best practices for moving animals and equipment.

Take time to ensure that they are oriented so that everyone is working with ‘common knowledge’ (which is much better than common sense). Remember these people are the most valuable assets to your operation, so protect them as effectively as you can.

Second, don’t forget all those COVID-19 practices you put in place last spring either.

As cases climb, we want to make sure everyone gets through this season healthy and is able to get all their farm tasks done in time.

At AgSafe Alberta, we have several resources available to help keep yourself, your staff, and your family safe on the farm and ranch in the next couple of months. We also have specific safety tips and guidelines related to a lot of areas that will be relevant in coming months, including seeding, equipment and machinery management, fatigue, calving and branding and more. Visit agsafeab.ca for all of these.

As always, our team at AgSafe Alberta is here to help. We are a free service for all Alberta farmers and ranchers, so please reach out to us any time for help with any farm safety needs.

Good luck and stay safe!

Jody Wacowich is the executive director of AgSafe Alberta.

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