When things go sideways …do you know what to do?

EDMONTON — Alberta’s Bill 6 has opened the door to addressing safety, say agricultural safety experts.

“I saw it as an opportunity to talk about safety, raise the profile of safety in people’s minds,” said Dan Trottier of Ag Safe Alberta.

“As a result, people are working toward more complex safety management systems for their farms.”

Facilitating an emergency preparedness workshop during the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association’s annual conference in Edmonton in early October, he cited improvements seen on farms each year.

“No one goes to work on a farm to hurt themselves,” he said.

Trottier said there has been an uptick in farmers seeking information on emergency procedures, with many realizing it could happen to them.

“If I’m working alone, how am I going to get saved, and beyond that, they’re thinking of family and workers,” he said.

That starts with identifying and managing hazards and ensuring adequate resources are accessible.

CASA is currently targeting grain entrapment training for emergency responders and providing farmers with emergency response programs to deal with these and other incidents on the farm.

Glen Blahey, CASA’s agricultural safety and health specialist, said farmers are often miles from emergency help so need to have a plan in place and the appropriate resources on site.

That could include fire extinguishers for a fire, first aid training for workers dealing with injuries and information on where shutoff valves, water pumps or electrical boxes are located.

“Know what to do in the moments immediately after an incident occurs and how to stabilize it,” said Blahey.

He said farmers should address what to do if the plan fails.

“Look at the what ifs.”

He also suggested ensuring Epipens are available and that staff knows how to use them for allergic reactions. CPR training for heart attack victims and the availability of first aid kits are also key.

In addition, contact information and legal land descriptions should also be easily accessed to relay to first responders in addition to a site map to identify where people and equipment are on the property.

“If I own and operate the farm, I know it, but what if I get hurt?” said Blahey.

Walter Pavlic, an Edmonton lawyer, cited the more than 100 agriculture-related fatalities in Canada each year, calling the industry the third most dangerous one in the country.

He said Alberta’s regulations for paid, non-family farm and ranch workers have been unpopular but bring occupational health and safety standards to the industry. They address the well-being of employees, training and work environments.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said, noting how following a best practices checklist and rules can result in rebates on Workers Compensation premiums for farm employers.

Denis Roy of L’Union des producteurs agricoles in Quebec told delegates the use of migrant workers will continue to grow to face Canada’s farm labour shortages.

“Workers are part of the (farm) assets and you have to protect assets. Put money in the workers, it’s worth the price,” he said.

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