Prep Week: Field trips

Planning isn’t all about documentation… it also means field trips. Not to a literal field quite yet, but to your shed, shop or garage. One of the key things in our safety plan is to physically check each work area, vehicle and piece of equipment for:

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  • Fire extinguishers - charged correctly, not expired and the right type and location for each piece of equipment

  • First aid kit - fully stocked with supplies

  • Emergency procedures folder - includes field locations (legal and emergency sign blue numbers for those with yard sites), directions from various local towns (our fields supported by emergency services from a number of different towns) and an outline of the information you need when calling 911 in an emergency

    Remember, in an emergency you might forget things you would normally know! Although it is possible to store this information electronically on your phone, we believe in redundancy and so we have a physical copy in each vehicle or piece of equipment.

Checking equipment and updating emergency procedures folders can be a time consuming process, which is one of the reasons to get started now! If you updated your field list earlier this week then you already have current field information for your emergency procedures folders.

After we complete these checks we post the information, as a way to keep ourselves accountable and transparent. It also reminds us to take note of exactly where these items are in each piece of equipment or vehicle.

So, pick a nice sunny winter day and organize your safety checklist, and create a shopping list if you need to! Message us with your system of keeping track of safety equipment in your fleet of vehicles and equipment.

Safely Raising the next 2%

In follow up to our recent post about keeping kids safe while involving them in farm life, we wanted to provide an illustration of what this means in practice.  

Recently you may have noticed Karen’s Instagram post about picking apples from a tractor bucket at our parents yard.  Here are some of the factors that were considered before any apples were picked:

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  • Experience level of the tractor operator and familiarity with the specific piece of equipment

  • Supervision (both proximity - Karen was also in the bucket - and number of supervisors)

  • Age and abilities of children (this was the first year)

  • Alternative ways to accomplish the job (ladder)

  • Length of time required to complete the task

  • Ease of children leaving the task before it is complete

  • Interest and engagement in the task

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Each day, farmers and farm extenders take numerous factors into account as they decide when and how to involve their children in farm-related activities.  This is a situation by situation analysis, because even for the same task there are variables that change from day to day. Of course, each child is also unique, so it is important to consider both the age and experience/exposure of the individual children.  To reiterate, it is always the adult’s responsibility to assess the situation and make a safe plan.

When we approach our safety plan from the perspective of wanting to involve our children and young people, we can safely teach the next generation the skills and the attitudes of farm life.  We can engage in authentic conversations about when and how to teach our kids the lessons of farming.

Feel free to comment below and share ideas of how you have modified farm tasks to involve your kids.

Throwback Thursday - Farm Safety Style

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I pulled out my old print copy of The Farm Safety Audit: A Management Tool for Farmers (2003).  Although this is not a new publication, the Principles of Accident Prevention in Production Agriculture* are just as true today as they were fifteen years ago.

1.       Accidents have causes (some of) which are preventable and controllable.

2.       There is usually more than one approach to preventing an accident.

3.       Risk is always present in life.

4.       To be human is to err.

5.       Human perceptions of risk are not very accurate.

6.       Human behavior can be changed.

7.       Farm safety and health is the responsibility of the farm manager (as well as each farm worker).

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We must keep these principles in mind, when we think about, and engage in, the process of a farm safety audit.  This process involves four main steps:

1.       Inspection and Identification of Hazards: hazards include physical conditions or work practices

2.       Risk Assessment: assess the level of risk associated with each hazard

3.       Corrective Action: corrective actions put in place the most effective hazard control

4.       Monitoring: continued loops of safety audits identify other hazards and ensure corrective actions on previously identified hazards are maintained

Today we challenge you to get started.  Conduct the safety audit process on your seeder or planter.  As you being spring preparations, be intentional about safety; take time to identify potential hazards and then take actions to reduce or eliminate those hazards.

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*Note: The principles come from a book entitled Safety & Health for Production Agriculture by Dennis Murphy.   Read more here. I’ve added my commentary in italics.

How to Make the Call

It is Ag Safety Week in Canada.  We are all invested in doing the job that we love safely, so we can do it for a lifetime.  This week is a great way to practice some safety essentials before the season kicks off.

One of the things we do each year as we host trainees from various parts of the world, is explaining how 911 and emergency services work.  This means that we talk about it, but we also do mock role plays to practice the conversations.  The difficult reality of farm accidents or emergencies is that it could also be a child who must make this call.  Prevention is critical, but accidents do happen.  In those cases, preparation can be a critical component of a timely response.  So, whatever your situation, take a few moments with the children and employees on your farm to practice emergency phone calls this week.

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What to tell the dispatcher

1.       The location of the emergency.  (It helps to have a “go-to” list of land descriptions, GPS coordinates and/or emergency grid numbers in every vehicle and at home.)

2.       The type of emergency (fire, rollover, etc.) .

3.       The number of people involved.

4.       The condition of the people involved (bleeding, breathing difficulty, etc.).

5.       The type of aid that has been given (CPR, equipment shut off, etc.).

6.       If anyone else is on the scene and/or available to meet EMS at the road.

7.       Any prior medical conditions of the individuals involved.

8.       Any hazards or challenges on the way to the site (livestock present, etc.).

Do not hang up unless/until the dispatcher tells you to do so.

Time to Shop

My husband, and our trainees, like to call me “Safety Teresa” because I am the one who coordinates many of our fame safety activities and conversations.  This lighthearted teasing is funny, but it is also a great way to make a sometimes-difficult topic more accessible.  We work hard to promote a safety culture on our farm because we acknowledge two things:

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  • our workplace is also our home, so we have to work and play in the same space

  • we didn’t get to design the perfect safety-oriented yard site, we are working with what we have

I know that many farm families are working with those same two realities, and that sometimes those realities make farm safety and safety planning a stressful topic.  Luckily, personal protective equipment (PPE) is a low-cost, high-impact place to start when looking to improve farm safety. 

My top five everyday Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items on a farm:

  • Steel toe boots

  • Hearing protection

  • Eye protection (sunglasses, safety glasses, welding shield)

  • High visibility clothing

  • Properly fitting gloves designed for your job (rubber gloves/leather gloves)

  • BONUS: Cell phone on your person (clip/pouch)

The bonus of having, and using, personal protective equipment is that it is a highly visible way to affect the safety culture on your operation.  The key to personal protective equipment is that it is personal.  Everyone will be more likely to use their PPE if it does not get in the way of their work.  Operators, farm extenders and employees will each have different preferences, as well as different size or fit requirements so it may take some trial and error before finding the best fitting equipment.

Planning for a safe spring starts now, so get shopping!

Next on the list - PPE for specialty jobs

Keeping Kids Safe on the Farm

Farm families have a long tradition of being multi-generational operations, where kids work alongside their parents.  While it is important, and often unavoidable, to involve kids in the farm, it is equally important to remember that they are kids.  Kids are impulsive, impatient and curious.  Often non-farm safety tips sheets or booklets say that a workplace is no place for kids, and that is the end of the conversation.  However, I know that is not realistic on our farm, and I am guessing that our farm is not unique.  So I would suggest a more realistic approach to educating kids and keeping them safe while they participate in farm life.  Here are some ideas of how to keep kids, and everyone, safe.

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1. Dress for Success - Dress for Safety

High Visibility clothing – We all have to get dressed before we go outside (I hope!) so we may as well choose clothing that is easy to see.  Put on your reflective gear or bright orange, green or pink t-shirts or hats.  Those of you who did the math after my birthday last week know that I am a child of the ‘80s so I have no problem bringing back the neon!  Also, remember that size matters.  I love hand-me-downs, but kids clothes that are too big are catch or trip hazards.

Cover your feet – “Summer feet” are a wonderful part of childhood, and there is a place for running around bare foot.  However, when you are by equipment or in fields closed-toe shoes are a must.

2. Communication – Knowing what others are thinking and doing keeps us all safe

Know who is in your space – when you enter a work site, know who is there with you and what jobs they are performing.  In our yard, we set out big orange pylons by the driveway any time the girls and I are outside so that everyone knows to be sure to include us in their headcount as they move around the yard.

Work time – The girls and I spend a lot of time talking about when it is safe to visit dad and when dad is busy working.  We have to continually talk about when a space is a play-space and when it is a work-space, because in reality we have spaces that function as both. 

3. Team – When we are working together, we can work safer

Ask for help - Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.  This can be counter-culture to traditional farmer folk-lore, so it needs to be an intentional part of your team’s safety culture.  Kids who see their role-models working together in order to be safe are more likely to make safe choices themselves.

Be real – Adults sometimes forget that kids are kids.  In an effort to teach kids life lessons about responsibility, the cycle of life, hard work, dedication or any number of other important values we can forget to let kids be kids.  Of course, working on the family farm is a great way to teach values and life lessons.  However, adults are the ones who need to step back and set the parameters around safety.  We need to set “future farmers” big and small, up for success, and safety, by asking them to help in ways that are realistic - physically and developmentally.

We all love our kids and we love to farm - working safely is a way to protect the way of life we love for the next generation.

Past safety posts:  

Safety Teresa strikes again October 3, 2017   

Kids and Farm Safety April 11, 2017

The Language of Learning- Words Matter

Our brains are busy hubs of activity.  There is a lot to pay attention to and farms are busy places. Our senses can be on overload – especially if we are not used to being on a farm.  Sometimes it can be hard to pay attention to the task at hand or to manage our emotions.

Here are some tips to remember when teaching kids (and adults too):

1.  Use positive language, in other words, tell them what you want them to do.

  • Wait until the truck is turned off and walk in front of the truck so that Dad can see you coming.
  • Get yourself to safety first, if you can, and then call 911.

2. Be specific.  Telling kids to “be good” or trainees to “be careful” does not help them to know what that looks like or sounds like.

  • You can ride along but you need to stay in your seat and be quiet to listen when someone is talking on the CB radio.
  • Pay attention to the power line that crosses the field and open your auger when you are clear of the lines.

3. Be real.  Get dirty and do experiments: plant seeds in the sandbox, dig up roots, open pods… And don’t expect every experiment to end in success.  It is important to let kids discover what works and what doesn’t.  The same is true of adults – that is the whole premise of field trials and research plots.  We want to try it for ourselves to see what works.  Kid’s experiments can be just for fun, but adult experiments should be more structured and intentional; although there still might be surprises!

  • Determine your purpose and focus before you start (minimize input costs, maximize yield, reduce people-power required to complete the task, increase protein, reduce fuel required).
  • Set parameters for experiments before you start to minimize risk (physical and financial).

 Finally, remember to have fun.  Hands-on learning is naturally fun.  Remember to let the fun happen.  Having a one-on-one lesson in the driver’s seat of the combine is way more interesting than reading about the combine in the manual. 

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Have Fun &

Learn something...

The best way to learn about how plants grow is to get started and plant a seed.