|What producers really think
The 2011 Farm Credit Canada (FCC) Farm Safety Report Card, prepared for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), shows most producers believe safety is a priority on their farms, and nine out of 10 want to know more about how to make their business even safer. However, only one in 10 have a written safety plan.
“Canadian farmers certainly have good intentions for keeping safe on the farm, according to our research,” says Rémi Lemoine, FCC Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer. “Now what’s needed is concrete action using tools like the ones created by our partners at CASA.”
The information provided by the 2011 Farm Safety Report Card underscored the data FCC collected in a similar online survey back in 2008. That information lead to CASA’s developing the Canada FarmSafe Plan.
“We will use the suggestions and testimonials in this new survey to help build new national farm safety messaging and create targeted educational tools,” said Marcel Hacault, executive director of CASA. “Our goal continues to be a Canada where no one is hurt farming.”
The 2011 Report Card shows there has been very little change in the perceptions and practices around farm safety in the past three years. While 91% of producers regularly take precautions for children and a third (35%) are interested in taking training on agricultural safety for children, less than a quarter (24%) of producers report having tried to access resources related to agricultural safety in the past year.
Of those who tried to access them, only 49% stated the resources were easy to find. These results show that CASA, as a national safety organization, needs to increase its visibility and work more closely with ag suppliers – where farmers say they look first for safety information.
Producers felt that safety is a priority on their farms for three key reasons: the potential for financial loss due to incidents (largely through lost productivity), safekeeping of their family members, and the need to keep employees safe. Reasons producers gave for not practising safety measures are: takes too much time (23%); feel it is unnecessary (16%); too costly (7%); and don’t know where or how to start (6%), but the top reason was difficulty in breaking old habits (37%).
This information shows safety organizations that there’s still work to be done to change Canada’s farm safety culture. Most producers want to be trained in agricultural safety. Nine in 10 (88%) producers report that they would be interested in pursuing training in at least one safety topic, with first aid garnering the most interest (48%), agricultural safety for children second with 35%, and developing and implementing a safety plan right behind with 34%.
Nearly 1,000 primary producers across Canada from various sectors who are members of the national research FCC Vision Panel participated in the online study.
To access the executive summary of the report, please visit http://www.fccvision.ca/Research.
Ontario on board with Ontario FarmSafe Plan
Most farmers surveyed for the Farm Credit Canada 2011 Farm Safety Report Card, say safety is a top priority, but only one in 10 has a written safety plan. To address this gap, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) developed a comprehensive health and safety program known as the Canada FarmSafe plan. And now, CASA is partnering with Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) to customize the plan for Ontario producers.
WSPS has just signed an agreement to be the provincial delivery agent for Ontario FarmSafe, a new tool based on the Canada FarmSafe plan, that will assist Ontario farmers in keeping their workers and businesses healthy and safe.
“We are committed to putting health and safety solutions within reach of every employer and employee in Ontario. Working with CASA to offer Ontario FarmSafe is an important step toward delivering on that promise for our agriculture clients,” says Elizabeth Mills, President and CEO of WSPS.
Dean Anderson, Regional Director, WSPS and Chair of CASA notes, “For many of our clients, it’s not a question of whether or not they want to work safely; it’s a matter of accessing the information they need, and receiving it in a manner that makes sense for their business. Ontario FarmSafe,set to be released in Ontario in 2012, is an important new program that will help all farmers manage health and safety, no matter the size, location or type of farm they operate.”
CASA’s agricultural health and safety specialist Glen Blahey led the development of the Canada FarmSafe plan. “It’s practical, sensible and it works,” Blahey says. “We’re very pleased to customize the plan for Ontario farmers.”
Blahey explains, “Ontario FarmSafe, like Canada FarmSafe, goes way beyond hazard assessment check lists. It’s a safety commitment with tools for the producer to use to make safety part of every plan and action on the farm. We’re listening to what farmers want and creating the tools they need to make their operations safe.”
Ontario FarmSafe includes information, tools and templates to assist farm operators in:
-Understanding their obligations under Ontario legislation
-Composing a general policy statement for safety and health
-Controlling hazards, including documenting standard operating procedures for all work on the farm, outlining emergency actions, conducting training and investigating incidents
-Reviewing the plan
Ontario farm safety leader re-elected chair of CASA
Dean Anderson, regional director for Western Ontario with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services,was re-elected to a third term as chair of the seven-person Board of Directors for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA).
At CASA’s annual general meeting in Tsawwassen, BC on November 17, 2011, Charan Gill, chief executive officer, Progressive Intercultural Community Services, B.C. was elected for his first term on CASA’s Board. CASA Council members re-elected to the Board are John Gordon, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, Saskatoon, SK, and Billy Woods, producer from Torbay, Newfoundland.
Denis Bilodeau, vice-president of L’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) was elected vice-chair of CASA. André Bonneau of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture was elected as CASA’s treasurer. Billy Woods continues as secretary. Lauranne Sanderson, associate professor at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, continues as a Board member.
Bruce Johnson, executive director of BC’s Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association, retired from the Board. He served 14 years as a Board member, and was chair from 2007 – 2009. Bruce Johnson has been the Executive Director and a Director of the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA) in British Columbia since 1994.
CASA’s 17thannual meeting was held during its conference PLAN. FARM. SAFETY. checking the plan! in Vancouver November 16 – 18, 2011. Approximately 75 farm safety professionals, researchers, government representatives and farm leaders from provincial and national producer organizations took part in discussions and workshops to develop and refine techniques to positively change the country’s safety culture.
Conference presentations are posted on CASA’s website.
For more information about CASA and to access CASA’s 2010-11 Annual Report, go to http://www.planfarmsafety.ca.
Setting the bar for safety
Safety is definitely part of the culture at Delta View Farms in BC as delegates to CASA’s 2011 conference discovered during their tour of the former Gipaanda Greenhouse.
Guido Konigs, general manager of Delta View Farms, is a guy who puts his workers first by ensuring everyone in the operation takes the time to stop and think about health and safety. “It only takes a little bit of effort on everybody’s part,” he says. “A lot of times, I hear, ‘I don’t have the time.’ That’s not a valid excuse. It’s not acceptable to say that you don’t have the time for safety. It’s a must.”
Konigs is not just paying lip service to the idea of safety. Under his watch, changes have been made to the greenhouse to keep workers as safe as possible. The number one complaint in the packing house was back pain. Konigs realized he was out of his depth and called in Scott Fraser of the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA) to do an ergonomic study.
“Scott taught us what to look for, what not to do, what twisting motion was bad and all that stuff,” explains the GM, “and that’s why we have installed a conveyor that transports all the boxes right in front of the workers. That way they don’t have to turn around to get a box – it is right in front of them.”
Konigs and the owners also added a high-slip surface to the packing house worktables and angled them so the loaded boxes of are easier to push onto the conveyor belt.
“We also have foot supports for the tables, so the workers can actually put their feet on the ergonomic mats and have them supported like you’re supposed to,” adds Konigs. “We have also raised the whole sorting machine so it is at the right height. This way, people don’t have to bend over to get the tomatoes; they can stand up straight.”
The process of putting an ergonomics package in place in the packing house had a cost, but it was worth it, according to Konigs. “We have not had one complaint about back pain in that area in three and a half years!”
Another greenhouse task that Delta View Farms does a little differently from most is lifting the heating/picking cart grid pipes. What is different about it? Well, they don’t do it.
“A lot of greenhouses have carts that tip over because the pipes are not level, so we made a conscious decision to leave the pipes down while we’re doing our turnaround,” Konigs explains. Instead of lifting the pipes to clear out last season’s debris and prepare for next season’s plants, Delta View Farms orders special materials, such as plastic that can be laid in strips, and spends the time necessary to tape all the plastic together so that during turnaround, the pipes stay in place.
“The results are that people are not getting injured, which is huge,” he says. “Not having to reset the pipes saves us about 800 hours in labour. Also, we have not had one person fall off the cart or the cart tip on us in five years!”
Knife cuts are common injuries for greenhouse workers required to slice leaves off the plants. And workers often knick the fruit as they attempt to cut off a leaf. Management at Delta View Farms thought that if they used better, sharper knives, then the tomatoes would not get nicked as often. They provided new knives and not only did tomatoes get nicked less often, but knife cut injuries also went down.
“It was a side-effect,” says Konigs. “Looking at quality, you automatically improve on the other end, too.” Typically, the greenhouse sees five or six minor cuts on fingers every month. During this past season, there were two whole months without a single minor cut.
“It doesn’t result in a lot of savings, as such,” admits Konigs, “but it helps you in regards to you don’t buy band-aids and the person is happier because they’re not worried about getting their fingers cut. If we can find five more little jobs that we do and improve on them and improve the safety at the same time, we’re looking at significant savings, so it’s all about keeping our eyes open and doing the right thing – looking at quality and safety at the same time because sometimes you can link them.”
Konigs credits the safety improvements to his placing more emphasis on training. The first step in any safety process is training. “I think if you do twice the amount of training out front, you’ll save four times on the end,” he says. Delta View Farms wanted to put safety first, according to Konigs. “We wanted to do the right thing, so we got training done by FARSHA.”
With Konigs at the helm as general manager, safety remains a priority at Delta View Farms. A safety committee is in place and meets regularly, and Konigs joins them in order to keep the communication open and provide the ability to make decisions in terms of cost and the ability to implement the committee’s suggestions. For Konigs, the bottom line is that safety is a team effort. “The whole safety aspect in a company is everybody needs to do their share.”