Fall is a special time for farmers. It has always been my favorite time of year. But fall is also filled with long hours, large equipment and lack of time as frost and rain loom ahead. This can be a dangerous combination.
Sometimes we have the tendency to give lip service to the notion of common sense and being safe on the farm. We think we are paying attention, and that accidents or injuries will not happen to us. But the facts do not back up these beliefs.
Agriculture is an inherently dangerous industry. Large equipment is essential on a modern farm. Over time, the risks become part of the routine. We stop paying attention. In a rush, we take shortcuts and park common sense, just for a moment. Those brief lapses have meant many trips to the emergency room, or worse.
How many of us have been to farm meetings, or even the local coffee shop and looked around at your friends and neighbors who were limping, wearing slings or casts? Or know that tough guy who does not go in for stiches? We shrug and say: “That’s farming”.” But our industry’s safety record is more than just bumps and bruises – the toll on families from farm accidents is large.
This is a time of year when the most farm accidents happen. July, August and September are the most dangerous months on the farm. We are busy. Whether the year is a success or failure is often decided in the next few weeks. Hours are long and we are often tired. This is when we may take shortcuts. We don’t put the shield back in place (just have to take if off again anyways). We try to unplug equipment before shutting it down completely. We stop paying attention.
This brings up the single biggest piece of safety advice that anyone can offer: slow down! Take the time to ensure that whatever you are doing is being done safely. Sometimes this will mean that a section does not get combined tonight or repairs will have to wait. But getting home in one piece is more important.
After making safety a priority for you, take the time to ensure it is a priority for your family and for your hired workers. Sit down and talk about safety on the farm. We must continue to work together to build a strong culture of safety on every farm.
And don’t forget about the dollars and cents arguments around farm safety. If you or another key player on your farm gets injured, it can have serious economic consequences for your operation. Your replacement won’t have your wealth of knowledge about your operation, or work as efficiently.
I wish every farmer in Canada a productive and enjoyable fall season. But above that I hope you have a safe harvest.