National Farm Safety Week: Vehicle and Machinery Safety on the Farm
Picture a farm and you might imagine a quaint, wholesome place complete with green tractors, baby animals and hay bales. While this picture is idealistic, the tragic reality is that farms can be deadly places for their occupants, workers and visitors.
Machinery greatly increases efficiency and productivity in farm workplaces, but at the same time introduces some deadly hazards. In fact, 70 per cent of agricultural fatalities are machine-related due to machine rollovers, runovers and entanglements.
This National Farm Safety Week – March 14 to 20 – the Canada Safety Council encourages all farming families, workers, and visitors to recognize the vital need for safety around all vehicles and machinery on the farm. Our goal is to raise awareness of the deadly hazards that exists and provide recommendations about what can be done to prevent injuries and tragedies.
From 1990 to 2008, an average of 104 people died every year from agricultural incidents in Canada, according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program. Agriculture ranks the fourth most hazardous industry in Canada, with 12.9 deaths per 100,000 farm population.
Agriculture creates a unique environment, where children have direct access to the workplace. The most common locations for agricultural fatalities involving children are fields and the farm yard. Of the 248 children who died due to agriculture-related injuries between 1990 and 2008, 63 per cent of the fatalities were machine-related.
Seventy per cent of agricultural fatalities occurred from May to October, and 92 per cent of people who died in agricultural injury events were male. Along with the human loss and suffering, economic losses from largely predictable and preventable agricultural incidents cost $465 million in one year. Transportation collisions accounted for $91 million of this total.
Make your farm a safer place by developing good practices for operating vehicles and machinery.
- Do not operate farm machinery or vehicles when impaired. Impairing substances include alcohol, some medications and drugs. Impairment can also take other forms. These include fatigue, emotional stress and distractions.
- Always walk around your machinery or vehicle before starting the equipment. Children, pets, farm animals or debris may be hiding in your blind spots.
- Know the terrain of the land that is being farmed. When possible, avoid steep ditches and other areas where rollovers are more likely to occur.
- Use machinery and vehicles for their intended purposes only.
- Do not carry more passengers on machines or vehicles than recommended.
- Always keep your hands, feet and body in general clear of moving parts. Use safety guards and keep the machinery in good repair.
- Keep work areas neat and clean.
- Underage persons should not operate vehicles or machinery.
- Teach children safety fundamentals. This includes clearly identifying where farm machinery and vehicles are operated, and where they may not play. Children need to develop a healthy respect for the potential dangers of being near a moving machine or vehicle, and learn how to stay safe.
- If you are the owner/operator of a farm, clearly communicate to your staff that risk-taking involving machinery or vehicles is not allowed or tolerated. Your employees should understand that you expect them to always operate in a safe manner. This includes no speeding and no impaired or distracted driving.
- Make sure operators are competent, confident and capable when it comes to using machinery. If additional training or instruction is necessary, make safety the priority. Take the time to read manuals, ask questions and consult industry experts who can give you answers.
- Have an emergency plan and review it often with anyone who is regularly at your farm. This plan should include contact information for local emergency responders, and contact information for friends or relatives who can be called if something goes wrong.
- Motorists, give farm-machinery operators the room they need on the road. Be patient and pass with caution when it is safe to do so.
Like many aspects of farming life, safety is a shared responsibility and a team effort. It is absolutely necessary that everyone does their part to reduce injuries or deaths involving machinery and vehicles.
Safety on the farm not only saves time and money, it reduces human suffering. Together, everyone can make the farm a safer and healthier place to live, work and play.
For more information, please contact:
Communications/Media Program Coordinator, Canada Safety Council
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)