As the season begins to change to fall, I can’t help but think of the autumn harvest. With an assortment of delicious fruits and vegetables in season, family dinners and gatherings are looked forward to by all. But did you know that the fall harvest can have some dangerous results when safety is not made a priority.
When researching this topic, I was shocked to find that the Farming and Agriculture Industry ranks as third most hazardous in Canada. In terms of the absolute numbers of fatalities, there is no more dangerous occupation! In an industry that tends to rely heavily on family involvement in offering free or affordable labour, yet submits its workers to some of the greatest risks, I began to question – at what price does this free labour cost?
In Canada, about 140 people are killed every year on farms, and of this, an average 10 deaths per year are children. For those aged 14 and under, the most prominent causes of farm-related deaths were: machines run-overs (41.9%), drownings (15.2%), machine rollovers (11.1%), animal-related (6.5%) and being crushed under an object (5.1%).
When it comes to the newly enacted Occupational Health & Safety Legislation on Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (Jan 1, 2016), which offers basic safety standards to employees, it does not apply to family and/or children (non-waged workers) helping on the farm. Items covered in the Legislation include that employers must take reasonable steps to provide a safe and healthy workplace; workers will be able to refuse unsafe work that presents an imminent danger; and OHS will be able to investigate serious injuries and fatalities – but what is there to protect the children? Who is accountable when their life is taken at work on the farm?
Yet safety on the farm does not just apply to those working on it. Many child fatalities have occurred from kids playing in dangerous and hazardous situations – such as the family farming tragedy just outside of Rocky Mountain House back in the fall of 2015 where three sisters were smothered by Canola seed while playing on a transport truck. Safety needs to be made a priority by all living, working and visiting farms or ranches.
So where can farm and agricultural owners begin? The first step is education and awareness of the safety hazards on a property that will in the end save money and lives. Conducting a daily safety audit with a specific farming checklist that is reviewed with family and workers can be one of the most simple and effective ways in ensuring the property is safe. Machinery and equipment should be powered off, locked and keys made inaccessible to anyone that has not had the proper training on use of the equipment. If need be, areas and sections of the farm should be kept off limits from children or visitors that are not trained and equipped to deal with the hazards. Making safety a must on the farm needs to be a way of live.
This fall I encourage you to shop our local farmer’s market, let’s support our Alberta farmers – but in turn ask that farmers support their own and always remember that the safety of family and workers needs to come first in order to reap the most bountiful harvest.
Cited: Alberta Farm Safety Centre http://www.abfarmsafety.com/resources/statistics.htm