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Agriculture rife with dangers

CHARLOTTETOWN — Farmers showed a three-fold reduction in their rate of injuries when applying four of six steps commonly used in hazard reduction in industrial workplaces.

Niels Koehncke of the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture presented the findings of the study led by the centre’s Jim Dosman at the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association’s annual conference in Charlottetown earlier this month.

“This study suggests taking a number of steps to identify the risk and (trying) to manage them in the production process can reduce risk and the likelihood of getting hurt,” said Koehncke.

The most important finding of the Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort Study is that farms embracing the principles of these preventive strategies may be effective in controlling workplace injures.

There was a prevalence rate for any farm injury of 10 percent in individuals reporting low adherence to the system, compared with about three percent in those using four steps.

The study, which surveyed 1,196 Saskatchewan farm operations, looked at current practices of farmers and farm injuries.

It starts by identifying the hazards and taking steps to reduce them, such as wearing personal protective equipment, changing how a procedure is performed and eliminating the risk altogether, said Koehncke.

“Agriculture is a risky profession and there are multiple ways to hurt yourself with hazards and risks, not the least of which is long work hours that result in injury,” he said.

The hierarchy of controls steps included identifying hazards on the farm, doing risk assessments, using personal protection devices, adopting administrative controls such as job training, engineering improvements in design and construction and eliminating hazards.

Thirteen percent of farm operators reported a injury with seven percent having injuries serious enough to require medical care.

The largest proportion of farmers reported administrative controls and engineering controls as the highest steps adhered to at 26 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Only nine percent of owner-operators reported always eliminating the hazard.

Eleven percent of farm owner-operators said they did not consistently adhere to any of the steps.

The hierarchy of control industrial model is not generally applied in farm workplaces, so the survey offers key ways to make farms safer, said Koehncke.

He said the results will be shared at conferences and in research papers but also through the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities’ voluntary health and safety network.

  • hazard identification
  • risk assessment
  • personal protection
  • administrative controls
  • engineering controls
  • elimination of the hazard

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