GREAT VILLAGE – If an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure to some, Curtis Millen undoubtedly values his safety measures by the bushel.
“Everything we do with farm safety needs to be preventative, not cured,” the Great Village crop farmer says. “That’s the idea of the whole thing is to prevent, eh. And everybody has to be part of it.”
With about a 100-acres of strawberries and 300 acres of blueberry fields to contend with each year, Millen counts on more than 150 migrant workers to harvest his crops. Additionally, he has eight to 10 other local employees who operate heavy equipment, from tractors to front end loaders, forklifts, trucks, buses and so forth.
March 10 to 16 is officially known as Canadian Agriculture Safety Week but for Millen and other farmers, employee safety has to be top-of-mind at all times.
“It has to be concerning for everybody. It’s not only me, it’s everybody who works for us,” Millen said. “Nobody wants anybody hurt…. We’re constantly watching for things to head off somebody being injured.”
While the most potentially dangerous aspects of his farm have to do with the operation and maintenance of equipment, there are also safety considerations that must be followed for the field workers, he said.
“There’s a certain amount, I guess, in the field. It’s not as extreme as with the people that work with equipment,” he said.
Millen has to ensure a certain percentage of his field workers are trained in First Aid to be on the lookout for and if necessary, deal with such things as heat exhaustion from toiling under a summer’s sun. It is imperative that fresh drinking water be on hand at all times and his buses, which are used to transport workers to between the fields and their accommodations must all be maintained for safety.
And those who work with farm equipment and materials must also have gone through the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
“Legitimate things are legitimate things and they need to be dealt with. Safety needs to be dealt with legitimately…,” Millen said.
That perspective is shared by Carolyn Van Den Heuvel, Farm Safe advisor with the Canadian Agricultural Assoc.
“Farm safety is all important on farms,” she said. “It’s important to have policies in place, proper training procedures, make sure that everybody that works for you and your family.”
Even if a family member is not actually employed on the farm, it is important for them to be mindful of safe practices and procedures,” Van Den Heuvel said.
“It’s often a place where people live, so you want to make sure everybody is aware of all the hazards on the farm.”
Another important note, she said, is that the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act applies to every workplace, including all farms even if the farmer is only one employed there.
“Not all farmers are aware that the Occupational Health and Safety Act applies to them,” she said. “So the Act and the regulations have to be followed by all workplaces in Nova Scotia, which includes farms,” Van Den Heuvel said. “We want farms to be safe places to work.”
Statistics are from Canadian Agricultural Information Reporting (CAIR) documents, from 1990 to 2008 (the most recent data available):
The CAIR data show that agricultural injuries are not due to random or isolated “accidents”. There are many recurrent patterns of injury. From 1990-2008, in Canada:
– 1,975 people were killed in agricultural injury events.
– The agricultural fatality rate was 12.9 per 100,000 farm population (including non-workers).
– The fatality rate for agriculture injuries in the agriculture population is higher than either motor
vehicle collision and suicide fatality rates in the general population.
– 70% of the agricultural fatalities involved machines.
– 4 machine-related causes were responsible for more than half the fatalities: machine rollovers, machine runovers, machine entanglements and traffic collisions.
– The top five causes of agricultural fatalities were machine rollovers (20%), machine runovers (18%), machine entanglements (8%), traffic collisions (7%), and being pinned or struck by a machine (7%).
– 92% of the fatalities were work related, 85% of the victims were working.
– 92% of those fatally injured as a result of agricultural work were male.
– 47% of the fatalities were farm owner/operators.
– 37% of all agriculture fatalities involved a tractor.
– 44% of fatalities due to toxic substance exposure were attributed to hydrogen sulfide (manure
– Of the drowning-related fatalities 39% occurred in a dugout.
For more information on farm safety, log on to www.agsafetyweek.ca .