Hand Signals on the farm


(Agri-news) Communication is integral to working with others in any environment. So when the noise and distractions from moving livestock, hooking up farm implements or navigating an oversized load significantly reduce a worker’s ability to hear another worker, communication is limited. This is where common hand signals are an ideal communication tool.


“When working on a farm, the sheer distance between workers can lead to communication breakdowns,” says Raelyn Peterson, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “At other times, farm equipment or machinery can make it impossible to hear someone, even if the other person is yelling. In cases like that, hand signals can get a message across and be an effective way to communicate.”

A series of ‘standard’ hand signals that have been adopted by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers are used for agricultural safety. The signals help everyone communicate in the same language which can decrease the risk of injury.

Peterson shares a story of a husband and wife team who nearly had an incident on their farm due to miss interpretation of each other. This prompted an agreement between the two and their family to learn and implement the set of hand signals. “Their frustration level was reduced significantly because they made a commitment to learn the same language,” says Peterson. “Less frustration means a safer environment and higher productivity.”

Using hand signals not only saves time and prevents incidents, it can also reduce severity of injuries and lower the risk of accidental death. To be of full benefit, it is important that the whole team of workers knows the hand signals. Farm owners and managers are encouraged to post the hand signals in a place where employees will see them every day.

“It would be a big safety step if all members of Alberta’s farm families, employees and farm visitors learned the standard hand signals and adopted them,” says Peterson. “It is important to train new employees about the safety features and practices used on the farm. That should include making sure all workers are familiar with and can use hand signals.”