Make a plan, stick to the plan

Minimize accidents by creating formal safety protocols and training everyone to use them


EDMONTON — Farm safety is a big concern for rancher Trevor Tapp of Fraser Lake, B.C., who lives an hour from the local hospital and hours away from a fire hall.

Speaking at the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association’s annual conference in Edmonton Oct. 3, he said he has a written safety plan, emergency numbers and land locations and keeps first aid kits in all vehicles.

“We look after ourselves a lot with neighbours because if I need help, that’s where I will get it from and if they need it, we’re where they will get it from,” said Tapp.

The former RCMP officer also created livestock handling systems and alleyways for the orderly movement of animals and buried overhead lines to avoid encounters to provide maximum protection for him and his wife.

They have a check-in, check-out system for farm jobs and know how long each should take.

“If it’s longer, we will call,” Tapp said.

He said agriculture may be the only occupation that doesn’t have formal training.

On his ranch, he leads his co-workers by modelling safe behaviours.

“Do as I do as opposed to do what I say all the time,” he said.

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Another motivator is giving them a reason to practise safety.

“It’s important to go home to the two-year-old at night.”

Russel Hurst of Crop Life Canada grew up on an Ontario farm where driving the high clearance sprayer straight was the priority.

“Driving straight is important, but there’s a whole lot of other stuff that goes into it,” he said, citing the safe use and disposal of chemicals to keep both the operator and the environment healthy.

Grain farmer Humphrey Banack of Camrose, Alta., recalled his father giving him a shovel and a job to do.

“We look at what we need to do and aren’t looking at the dangers,” said Banack.

Banack stressed the importance of training and ensuring workers are capable of doing the tasks. He advised taking the time to assess the situation, calling it an opportunity to affect outcomes.

“It’s not acceptable to see farmers without limbs and fingers,” Banack said, recalling his own recent close call on the farm.

“Just a second of not thinking and I could have four less fingers. We overlook losses due to injury. We need to change the lens on how we look at this.”

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AgSafe Alberta thinks baby steps are the best approach to upcoming changes in occupational health and safety requirements in farming in Alberta.

It has designed quick start programs to get people started on farm safety programs in areas such as hazard analysis, emergency response, working at heights and fatigue management. It also includes videos with farmers sharing why they have such programs on their farms.

Donna Trottier, the group’s farm and ranch safety extension co-ordinator, said she can clear a room by raising the topic of farm safety with farmers.

Many are hesitant to start a safety plan before the new provincial code is in place, she added.

“I say, ‘why are you waiting to be safe or waiting for someone else to tell you how to be safe,’ ” she said.

“We say, ‘let’s tailor a plan and see what fits.’ ”

That includes such tasks as defining spaces for family and farm use.

Trottier suggested starting small and letting the safety plan grow, beginning with hazard assessment.

“Just do a hazard assessment for one of the job tasks on the farm and see what that points out,” she said.

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“It’s just a starting point, it just opens the door.… Take the time to plan ahead and prepare. It will save you time down the road if you prevent an accident.”