The Business of Farm Safety

At the recent South Western Ontario Dairy Symposium in Woodstock, ON, a dairy farmer from the London area spoke about what he learned from a business point of view after the death of a long-time employee in a farm accident.

In the very sad situation, the employee of 16 years died in an accident involving the farm’s manure tanks. Although they’ll never know the exact cause, he either fell in and drowned or was overcome with methane gas and fell in. However he died, the tragic accident brought inspections from the Ministry of Labour and other authorities reviewing the farm’s protocols and health and safety practices.

Fortunately for the farm operation, they had made health and safety a priority. From a business point of view, health and safety is so very important for farming operations. Farming after all is consistently one of the top 10 most dangerous occupations in Canada.  Farm operators should review the laws that govern them and/or speak with a human resources consultant to make sure they are compliant and they are doing all they can to keep their employees safe.

The following are the tips the farmer shared after his experience with this tragedy. Luckily for him he had all of these in place, but wanted others to know. Hopefully by implementing these, tragedies are prevented in the first place.

  • Due Diligence – This cannot be said enough. Have written records of health and safety committee meeting minutes and signed attendance sheets and sign-offs for training and protocols. If you don’t have written records it means nothing, even if you had good intentions.
  • If employees are sharing ideas to improve safety, budget for and act on them.
  • For every new piece of equipment or machinery on the farm, employees need to receive training on proper use/handling. You need to have them sign a document saying they have been trained.
  • Standard Operating Procedures – Have SOPs all written down and available for staff to review and for inspection if requested.
  • Ensure safety shields/guards/barriers are in place or installed – They can’t protect if they’re not in place or installed. From an insurance point of view on the liability side, having shields/guards/barriers in place is very important. Helping to prevent unintended injuries of people visiting your property (and your family and employees) is key when looking at liability.

The hope is, if employees are receiving training, attending meetings and feel they are being heard, they will feel empowered and take ownership for safety and not cut corners.

Safety needs to be a priority on any farm or business. The death described above was a very sad reality of farming operations today. Inevitably every year we hear of tragic farm accidents that result in deaths, leaving loved ones to pick up the pieces and carry on. Let’s do all we can to protect ourselves, employees and family.

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