Canadian Agricultural Safety Week aims to educate and save lives

The agriculture industry is unique in many ways, but two stand out as being particularly significant: the large-scale, often-dangerous machinery and substances involved, and the number of farms that consider themselves family operations, with relatives and young children often in close proximity to the work being done.

With these two factors in mind, national non-profit the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) has made it their mission to educate Canadian farms about the importance of family safety in agriculture. However, the participation of agri-retailers is paramount to the program’s success.

Agri-retailers are in a unique position to influence the safety choices of their customers. - Marcel Hacault

Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

Starting in 2016 and over the next three years, CASA will focus on family safety on the farm, beginning with Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) in March. The theme for 2016 is “Keeping Kids Safe”.

A focus on family farm safety is a top priority for CASA, after seeing a disturbing statistic in on-farm accidents over the previous year. “Devastatingly, we are seeing, on average, five children killed each year,” says Marcel Hacault, executive director of CASA. “In 2015, through media monitoring, we know that we surpassed this number. That is totally unacceptable.”

“This focus on children will enable us to highlight topics like mechanisms of injury, developmental levels, age appropriate tasks, safe play areas, voluntary guidelines for young workers and talking to kids about farm safety,” he says.

CASA understands the importance of the ag family, and that everyone involved in agriculture makes up this “family”. They aim to emphasize safety to the whole ag family, from farmers, farm workers and farm families to community members, agri-retailers and all organizations working in the agriculture industry.

Agri-Retailers Encouraged to Step In

According to Hacault, agri-retailers are essential in promoting the message of farm safety to producers across the country. “Ag retailers are in a unique position to influence the safety choices of their customers,” he says. “We know through a Farm Credit Canada (FCC) survey done in 2011 that 52 per cent of respondents get their safety resources and information from suppliers to the agricultural industry,” he says. “Agri-retailers are trusted members of the farming team, and they have the confidence of their customers.” CASA hopes that agri-retailers will commit to hosting their own CASW launch events, display or distribute promotional materials and reach out to the association to see how else they can contribute to the cause.

Program Launch and Promotions

The “Keeping Kids Safe” installment of CASW will begin on March 13, 2016 with an official event in the Niagara region of Ontario. Friends and sister organizations of CASW will also recognize the program with smaller events across Canada.

“We are always encouraging individuals and organizations to get involved by holding their own events,” says Hacault, noting that the agsafetyweek.ca website hosts a listing of events, as well as provides posters and other resources that are free to use.

CASA will also run a social media contest to promote CASW, inviting farmers, farm families and farm workers to share stories about how they keep safe on the farm. CASA’s social media channels are on Twitter @planfarmsafety, and on Facebook as Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA).

CASA and Canadian Ag Safety

CASA has been running CASW in its current form since 2002. The intention of the yearly event is to promote the importance of practicing safe agriculture on Canadian farms. In addition to CASW, CASA’s programs and initiatives include online and in-person training, grants such as the FCC Ag Safety Fund and managing CASA’s charitable arm, the FarmSafe Foundation.

Hacault hopes that CASA’s initiatives will open Canadian ag workers’ eyes to the potential dangers around them, and empower them to make decisions that can change the industry for the better. “We have organizations dedicated to animal welfare, food safety and environmental safety, but we need organizations like CASA that are dedicated solely to the farmers,” he says. “CASA is here to promote the safety and welfare of those who produce our food, take care of our animals and are stewards of the environment.”

With the dedicated support of agri-retailers and sister organizations, CASA hopes that Canadian Ag Safety Week will ultimately bring them to their vision for the future of agriculture: a Canada where no one is hurt while farming.

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