Recent Quebec farm deaths prompt safety awareness

The three deaths in four days were separate incidents involving a tractor falling to its side and power take-offs

QUEBEC CITY — Three farm deaths occurred over a period of four days earlier this month in Quebec, prompting advocates to remind farmers of the importance of safety.

The deaths, all separate incidents, include a man in his 50s, a 19-year-old man and a woman who worked for the province’s agriculture department.

“It’s certainly bad news for the ag sector,” said Denis Roy, an immigration consultant with the Union des Producteurs Agricoles, which represents 42,000 farmers in the province, following the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association annual conference in Quebec City.

“It’s a very sad day for these families.”

The news of the deaths came unexpectedly during the conference, which focuses on ways farmers can improve their safety when working with hazards.

On Oct. 6, a man in his 50s died after being trapped underneath a tractor. The machine fell to its side while he was operating it, pinning him, according to the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force.

The 19-year-old man also died on Oct. 6 after his body was wrapped in a power take-off.

The woman who worked for the province’s agriculture department, Sandra Jacob Godin, was killed Oct. 4 after her scarf got caught in a p.t.o.

The department told Quebec media that Godin had been filming and standing on a platform behind the tractor when the scarf was caught.

Quebec’s OH&S department is investigating the deaths of Godin and the 19-year-old man, and won’t know what transpired until the investigation is complete.

Roy said the deaths should remind farmers to implement safety practices and take it seriously.

He said even if they feel rushed during harvest time, they shouldn’t cut corners.

“Many farms are no longer just a family business,” he said. “They are real employers and have a responsibility to be a leader in safety.”

He said implementing safety practices are simple to do, noting it can only take a few minutes in the morning to ensure workers know how to use machinery. Children should be kept away from heavy equipment, he added.

Nearly 250 children younger than 15 in Canada were killed in farming incidents between 1990 and 2009, according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Report.

In the United States, safety experts estimate a child dies in an agriculture-related incident every three days, and about 33 children are injured from farming incidents every day.

Safety strategies to avoid accidents include wearing proper clothing, keeping kids away from tractors and away from the worksite, supervising children if they are working around grain or with animals, and developing a plan to ensure tasks are age appropriate.

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