By Nikki Jamieson
Westwind Weekly News
When it comes to safety, a reminder is always welcomed.
While most farmers say they are “pretty conscientious” when it come to safety, Jordan Jensen, sustainable farm families program manager for the Farm Safety Centre, says they still stress some key messages every harvest season.
“Mostly, we’re just trying to encourage them to use the safeguards that are in place,” said Jensen. “Many times, machinery, equipment, tools, they all come with guards and warnings and ways to keep the user safe, but sometimes farmers bypass them or they ignore them or choose not to use them. So we’re always trying to encourage to use the tool or machine as they were meant to be used, follow the safety procedures that are in place for that.”
Using the example of grain augers, Jensen noted sometimes, if the grain auger is new but the bin is old, the grain auger won’t fit into the bin, so people may remove the guard. Extra care would then be needed around the grain auger, which is no longer properly protected.
“We would always recommend that instead of cheating the system and removing the guard, that they try to make modifications to the bins or to their augers, so that they can still be safely used without having to remove safety equipment.”
They also encourage farmers to test and carry fire extinguishers with them in their machinery at this time of year especially as it’s been pretty dry. That way, if needed, they can put out any small fires that start before they become wildfires.
“It’s something that is often times overlooked, before they think ‘oh, it’s been there, it’s been in that combine for 10 years. But (is) it still going to work for you?’”
With the pandemic, farmers are having to make changes as well. While Jensen said it depends on the type of farming operation, as family farms could consider themselves as part of a cohort and not have outside employees come onto the farm to help during harvest, whereas larger operations with employees from different areas and cohorts would have to impose stricter measures so everyone stays as safe as possible, such as mandatory masks and cleaning protocols.
“From what we hear, most people are being courteous and wise and trying to keep each other safe.”
Normally, during the fall, the centre offers a Safety Smarts program, for those kindergarten to Grade 6, during the school year and an adult program for farmers focusing on health and safety during the winter months. When schools shut down in March, so did the school program, and they don’t plan to go back into schools anytime soon.
“We’re going to give schools time to get everything caught up and organized and their routines figured out, and we’re thinking we’ll like to approach schools again, possibly in 2021, to see if they’re interested in having us come back into schools,” said Jensen. “There’s other approaches we’re looking at, maybe having virtual presentations delivered to a classroom via Zoom, possibly for those schools that still want a farm safety education for their students but aren’t able to allow outside people in the school.”
They are currently working on developing the curriculum for distance education, and adding more resources to their website for parents and teachers to access for students.