Last week was Canadian Agricultural Safety Week. Having an officially proclaimed week is a great idea to bring attention to the issue, and I saw a lot of great information shared online and in print. But… ag safety is just as important this week, as it was last week, and it will be important next week too.
Agriculture is a fairly risky business from a safety perspective. You’re working long hours, often with little sleep, maximum stress, and you’re working in a variety of less-than-ideal weather situations. If you’re a farmer, you’re working around heavy and dangerous equipment, moving awkward-shaped implements and going full out, trying to beat the impending rain/snow/wind/storm. If you’re a rancher, you’re working with heavy animals that have ideas of their own on how to move, where to go, and how to get there. Ranchers are also using heavy equipment and logging long hours trying to beat the weather or the dark to get those last few head through the chute, or treating cattle out on the range all alone. Whatever your sector, the risks are prevalent.
One of the things I enjoy most about ranching is that it involves the whole family, however, ag safety takes on a whole new dimension when you have a truckload of little “helpers” along for the ride. We constantly repeat the same refrain of “don’t touch that!” and “stay away from those!” While it feels repetitive, I know I should talk with our children them even more, explaining the why’s and the how’s and getting them thinking about safety for themselves.
Around our ranch, we’ve had a few wake up calls, although fortunately nothing major. About the worst thing to have happen took place years ago when my Other Half suffered a gash in his forehead after a minor incident. Dripping blood all over my nice clean floor (this was in our pre-children life) he said “I think I’ll be just fine.” I’m not much of a nurse and an unsympathetic one at that, but after appraising the situation, I figured it was best to stuff him in my little car and drive him to the doctor. “Why don’t you try and have a nap?” I said soothingly on the drive in. “Uh, shouldn’t I avoid sleep in case I have a concussion?” Right. “Well then lay back and rest.” “Aren’t I supposed to keep the wound elevated to slow blood flow and aid in clotting?” Bottom line, one of us got full marks in First Aid, and one didn’t. And I’m not a nurse. But we did get him stitched back together.
Agricultural producers are busy people. We get distracted, we feel pressure to get the job done, we cut corners to save time, and we make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes are minor and result in wasting an afternoon in the ER, like my husband and I did that day. Sometimes these mistakes are more than “close calls.” We all know someone that has been so lucky to survive a farm or ranch accident. And chances are, we know someone who hasn’t. These people were all smart, skilled, hard-working people and good at what they did, whether it was growing a nice crop, making the perfect bale, or raising good cattle. For their neighbours, friends and families, farm safety hits home hard.
The motto for Canadian Agricultural Safety Week last week was “let’s talk about it.” So let’s keep talking, let’s encourage one another, let’s tell someone know what farm jobs we are planning on doing and how long it might take, and let’s think about what steps we would take in an emergency situation. Perhaps some of us should recertify our First Aid training. Maybe we should all just slow down and take those extra precious seconds to think about the job at hand and the potential risks associated with it.
Ag safety is so often pushed aside because we’re “too busy.” But we talked about it last week. Now let’s talk about it today, and tomorrow too.