VIDEO: Workplace safety in the spotlight

Safety training videos key component of university curriculum

This is part of a series exploring how farmers, ag consultants and service providers are professionalizing agriculture by integrating the many skills required by today’s complex and challenging industry. This week: The importance of farm safety training to keep employees safe, and the farms viable.

This series looks at how farmers, agriculture consultants and service providers are professionalizing agriculture by integrating the many skills required by today’s complex and challenging industry.
 You can follow the entire series here.

Young farmers expect to learn a lot about soil science, plant science, farm management and animal production when they attend university to study agriculture.

That’s what generations of farmers have studied.

However, while those foundations are still dominant in university and college agriculture curricula, some might be surprised at what programs such as the University of Manitoba’s School of Agriculture are focusing on these days.

“The area we are focusing on right now for additional training is farm safety,” said school director Michele Rogalsky.

“We perceive that’s a critical management function.”

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Farming has long been among the most dangerous occupations in Canada with many farmers injured every year by accidents with machinery, gases, bacteria, disease and animals.

Much attention recently has centred on the tragedy that occurred with the Bott family in Alberta, in which three children died in a truck load of canola. However, myriad other injuries have occurred across the Prairies this year, as they do every year.

An injury or death for the person who does most of the farming can destroy the farm as a viable unit.

As well, many farmers have employees, and they need to ensure they are able to offer safe workplaces that conform to workplace safety standards and keep the farm safe from legal liability.

That’s why agricultural education programs are taking farm safety more seriously and making it part of the core of their farm management training.

Garrett Sawatzky, one of the University of Manitoba’s farm management instructors, said increasing farm safety knowledge and understanding is “the biggest change we’ve seen in the last couple of years.”

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It’s now part of a core curriculum that was once dominated by hardcore management and production fundamentals.

“It’s been really overlooked, and any chance we get we try to incorporate it,” said Sawatzky.

However, Rogalsky said that won’t be done just using the old methods of classroom instruction.

The School of Agriculture and organizations such as Keystone Agricultural Producers and the Manitoba Canola Growers Association have been developing safety training videos that can be accessed using smartphones and tablets.

These videos are increasingly become essential farm management tools for young farmers.

“They’re not going to drive in to the university and sit in a classroom,” Rogalsky said.

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“If you can chunk it into 20 minute pieces, they can watch it while waiting to deliver their grain at the elevator.”