Farm safety isn’t just about responding to emergencies; it’s about developing proactive, preventative measures and a robust plan for everyday occurrences.
In this episode of the Farm Safety Roundup, Shaun Haney is joined by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services Health & Safety consultant Ryan Dick to shed light on critical steps to developing an effective safety strategy, and how to preempt emergencies and secure the well-being of both farm and family.
Understanding the lay of the land is where Dick’s approach begins. He emphasizes the crucial nature of surveying the farm with a comprehensive walkabout. “Take a good look at all those places on the farm,” Dick says. “Examine the field entrances, your farm entrances, examine the barn itself, you need to understand how your surrounding environment plays a factor.”
Environmental elements like changing weather patterns factor significantly into risk assessment. “We’ve had a lot more forest fires and other seasonal weather changes… understanding those changing weather patterns in your area are also of key importance,” Dick stresses.
Reflecting on a past incident on his own operation, Dick highlights the strategic placement of tillage equipment around the barn as a lifesaver. “It was proven very effective,” he recounts, underscoring the critical time saved during emergencies when machinery is readily accessible to contain a fire or move fallen trees, as examples.
Dick delves into identifying hazard gaps, citing the visibility of the civic address as a pivotal point. Ensuring accessibility for first responders becomes paramount, especially when farm locations aren’t always easily discernible from the roadside. “First responders… will go to the civic address number. And if that civic address number is at the driveway, but the issue is in the back 40, or is in the barn around the back of the farm, those first responders are going to waste precious minutes at the house trying to find somebody,” Dick notes, emphasizing the need to share critical information ahead of time to guide them directly to the crisis site.
Haney and Dick discuss working with local fire departments, enlightening them about the farm’s layout and potential hazards. Dick urges farmers to initiate tours for first responders, enabling them to familiarize themselves with key areas and potential risks.
When formulating an emergency plan, Dick advocates for well-defined roles and responsibilities, coupled with extensive training. “Have numbers for your local neighbors easily accessible,” he recommends, emphasizing the necessity for a clear chain of communication and action during crises. “Know where all your employees are and who has what skills, know what animals are on site and have that posted somewhere. It’s very important for first responders to know what kind of situation they’re getting into, especially if you’re not on site.”
Lastly, Dick stresses the importance of maintaining fire extinguishers, ensuring they are checked regularly, and are of the appropriate type for different fire classifications. He emphasizes the need for a detailed site map and awareness of power sources for hydrants to facilitate the firefighters’ response.
“It’s such an important topic… helping everybody out here to be proactive and really prevent some situations from really impacting not only a family but the farm business,” he says.
Farm safety isn’t just about reacting to crises; it’s about actively preventing them. Preparedness can mean the difference between damage and destruction, and putting in time before a disaster strikes can pave a clear path toward proactive safety measures that can safeguard lives, livelihoods, and legacies on the farm.
Stay safe with these free resources to assist with emergency planning on your farm:
- Easy-to-use tools and resources at the Agriculture Health and Safety Centre | WSPS
- Farm Safety Checklist – How does safety rate on your farm?
- Emergency Planning Resources
- Developing an Emergency Preparedness Plan