Picture this; a young girl spending hours in the tractor cab with her grandpa, going back and forth in the field. This image is not unusual across rural Canada where generations of farm families have been working together for years.
This idyllic picture in your mind can also be the start of any number of hazards or farm safety issues. They could cause Grandpa or granddaughter or anyone else involved in the operation to be injured or worse. Farming is one of the top ten most dangerous occupations in Canada.
March 11-18, 2018 is designated as Canadian Agricultural Safety Week by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture with the goal of raising awareness about Farm Safety. The theme from 2016 to 2018 is ‘Be an AgSafe Family’, with each year of the campaign focusing on a different family generation. ‘Supporting Seniors’ is the topic for 2018.
Seniors involved in the family farm are not just an extra person available to drive the tractor during the spring and fall. They are also an invaluable resource of knowledge, for example, they may be the only person to know the history and location of tiles or drains in the back part of a field. In fact, many farms are still run by seniors. The 2016 Canadian Census1 found that 34 percent of farm operators are 65 years of age or older and 10 per cent are over the age of 75. These numbers continue to rise.
Supporting our senior farmers and keeping them safe should be a goal for everyone involved in agriculture. Ag Safety Week resources remind us to keep lines of communication open and be proactive about managing risks that become more apparent as our farmers age and some physical limitations appear. The following measures can be taken to counter physical limitations of seniors and help keep them and everyone safe2:
- Invest in new machinery with greater automation and safety features
- Invest in new fence gates, doors and animal handling devices to make handling easier and safer
- Increase lighting levels
- Install handrails and non-slip surfaces
- Limit operation of machinery to daylight hours
- Limit duration of work, and insist on regular breaks
- Make arrangements for team work and have a policy of regular check ins
- Provide a cell phone and ensure other means of immediate communication are available
- Provide heart attack and stroke training to everyone working and living on the farm
- Insist on regular medical check-ups for physical and mental health
- Adjust roles to benefit from the wisdom and experience of the aging generation without compromising anyone’s safety
To find out more ways to ‘BE AN AGSAFE FAMILY’, visit www.agsafetyweek.ca for information about all generations of the family.
P.S. –We know how nice a picture the opening paragraph puts into one’s mind, but we do remind you; if there is no extra seat on a tractor or piece of equipment, there should be no extra rider!
1Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Agriculture. Farm and Operator Data.