Robert Gobeil, Ag Health and Safety Specialist for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) recently provided insights about safety from an ag retailers’ perspective
Gobeil talked about the impact incident awareness has on the ag industry, common ag-retail and farm injuries, mechanisms of injury, injury causes, injury prevention, and injury response.
Gobeil began by saying that injuries in the ag-retail sector, or on a farm, impact more than just the injured individual, it affects the industry overall. Other parties affected could include the mental health of family and friends, especially children, who may refuse to do certain types of work in the future as a result of seeing their parents injured doing the same activity. Companies or employers can also be affected financially due to loss of production, and retraining costs.
“Other than the pain of the injury itself. An injury is a stressor and impacts the worker and employer’s finances,” said Gobeil. “Did you know that even a small injury can have a total cost of ten thousand dollars or more?”
Common ag-retail and farm injuries include bruises and contusions, sprains and strains, broken bones, amputations, acute occupational exposures, and chronic occupational exposures. Due to the large range of job tasks, ag retailers and farmers may face a wider variety of potential injuries than other industries.
A common mechanism of injury includes ergonomics, which refers to heavy lifting, repetitive movement, vibration, etc. Getting struck by or impact with objects or animals, pinch points, and exposure to chemicals, dust spores, insects, plants, heat, or radiation are also common mechanisms in the industry.
“Often we don’t factor some of these potential injuries into the equation. How often have we been out in the sun for too long and forgot to put sunscreen on for example?”
Gobeil then listed potential injury causes so employers and workers can stay ahead of the curve and be proactive and not reactive when it comes to injuries.
Common causes of injury: Housekeeping (lack of); Lack of planning or preparation; Fatigue, rushing; Distraction, Complacency; Working alone; Environmental conditions; and Lack, or improper use of, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In most workplaces, the main cause of injuries are slips, trips, and falls, which is usually accredited to lack of housekeeping. While the workplace may tidy when the day begins, it may gradually get messier as the day progresses. It is important to ensure the workplace is tidy throughout the workday and cleaning up happen continuously as work is being done.
For drivers and equipment operators, rolling an ankle is very common when dismounting. This typically happens when operators are rushing. Using the face-on, face-off technique will greatly reduce the likelihood of injury. When mounting or dismounting the equipment, always face towards the equipment or stairwell.
Gobeil also says that PPE should be factored at the tail end of things. Workplaces should focus on reducing the likelihood of injury and controlling hazards before implementing the use of PPE.
The best method to prevent injuries is to identify hazards. Before starting a new job task, advise your team to “Stop, Think, and Ask if the task is safe to continue”. If it isn’t safe, communicate and control the hazards before continuing. Safe work procedure development and training as well as supervision and safety enforcement is also crucial to preventing injuries.
In all workplaces, there should be an Emergency Response Plan and procedures. Workers should be trained in such procedures and have practiced them as well (fire drills, etc.). If an injury does occur, it should be reported internally within the company as well as externally to Workplace Safety and Health or the authorities if it does qualify as a reportable injury. Lastly, all near-miss injuries should also be reported to be used in the future as accident prevention and a tool to learn from.
“We want to remember that every workplace is different, so we need to tailor our safety management system or our safety program to our workplace and our job tasks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a truck driver, agronomist, ag rep, dealer, supplier, or farmer – it’s important for all of us to use these tools and work together as a team to prevent injury.”
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