Everyone needs a plan to make harvest safe this season.
That’s the message being expressed by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry as the 2016 harvest is well underway across the province.
“Safety needs to be the first conversation, first action and first thought farm owners and workers have as they go to work each day,” explained Nicole Hornett, a farm safety coordinator with the department.
She added all workers need to be aware of the hazards and of the ways to eliminate or reduce the risks involved.
Hornett stated there are many hazards present at harvest, most prevalent are the operation of huge pieces of equipment and fatigue.
“It’s no surprise that the number one cause of injury or death to farm workers involves machinery and equipment. Those with the task of using equipment such as swathers, combines, and tractors need to be properly trained,” she said.
“And many farmers feel the need to push themselves for maximum production during harvest. Some see not getting their crop off in a certain amount of time as a bigger risk than making a poor choice due to fatigue.”
Two things, Hornett explained, will mitigate the risks involved. First, training increases the skills and confidence of the equipment operator and instills a healthy respect for the size and damage machinery can do and second, it’s important to get some pre-harvest work completed such as having properly maintained equipment and checking fields for debris or washouts.
“As well, farmers should plan for optimum production, which means they are harvesting at a rate that has maximum benefits to their health and production,” she added.
In addition, all workers need to be able to communicate with someone at the farm in case of problems, check the route for hazards before heading out with equipment, don’t allow children around or to operate machinery, always shut-off and lock out systems and equipment when a problem occurs and before any work is performed, maintain all guards on equipment, keep working areas clear to avoid potential slips, trips and falls as well as always be aware of what you are doing, where you are and wear all necessary protective clothing and footwear.
“A successful harvest is the one where everyone goes home safe and healthy at the end of each work day,” stated Hornett.
“With the wide range of harvest-related hazards it is essential to make a plan, ensure workers are well-trained and that safety discussions focus everyone onto the same page for a safe and bountiful harvest.”