Alberta producers have known for months that new legislation will be coming to farms of all sizes. Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm & Ranch Workers Act first arrived in the legislature back in the fall of 2015. Amendments to this act are currently being reviewed by the Government of Alberta.
There are those still seething from the lack of consultation, which led to the protests on the streets of rural communities and at the legislature. Following the outrage, consultation led to family members being exempted from Bill 6. There are others who are now taking a step back to look around their farm and equipment and ask “Is this a safe task or job in front of me?”
Growing up on a farm and learning how to run equipment had me “skip” a few of the safety meetings that should’ve occurred. Later, when I started working in construction and on large and active sites from railroad jobs to heavy traffic areas of equipment, there was no exception, a safety meeting and job hazard assessments were happening constantly. They are required to make sure all personnel and sub contractors know the risks and to perform the magic two words on a job site at all times… DUE DILIGENCE.
Now, is a farm as potentially dangerous as a big construction site? It can be. Here are a few different elements that can be helpful and safe and will likely be familiar legislation and common practice going forward, once Bill 6 is implemented.
- Field Level Hazard Assessment
These FLHA’s for short are done on a constant basis on job sites and you can do one on the farm. It’s easy to identify hazards and will give everyone an opportunity to see the tasks at hand and point out the hazards that come with them. An example is working near a power a line and identifying them it as a hazard. With seeding well underway now, assessing risks when it comes to operating, filling up and servicing heavy equipment is important. Doing a FLHA can also help determine what personal protective equipment (PPE) one could need.
Here is an example of a FLHA (courtesy of the Alberta Construction Safety Association)
The best part about FLHA’s is if you’re not sure of the risks surrounding certain tasks, the template can give you a very close example of what to look for.
2. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Basic PPE consists of a hard hat, protective footing, safety vest & safety glasses along with gloves & hearing protection.
There’s obviously pros and cons for these elements on the farm and potential safe adjustments that can be made.
Footwear: When it comes to steel toed boots (especially coming from a guy that isn’t a fan of the high lace up boots) there’s no lace cowboy boots that can do the job. Quite frankly, heavy items tend to slip and fall at times, and usually it’s dropped on someone’s foot. For a farm’s sake, whether it’s livestock or grain farming, laced boots could be a hazard as laces could snag on something or get caught in equipment like grain augers or could lead to trips in a corral. This is just one way of obeying legislation but also making things manageable and reasonable for your farm, at the end of the day you are the foreman of any job and can make amendments.
Here are a couple of different models of steel toed footwear.
This is a very comfortable boot and I personally love these for the quick slip on and slip off like any other cowboy boot.
*An important note to look for with footwear is to make sure the boots or shoes have the (that should never be removed) green CSA logo tag on them. This shows that the boot is approved by the Canadian Standards Association. Tags may vary in shape and size but should be on the boot somewhere.
Hardhats: You only have one head, protect it at all costs. This is one of the priority items that safety coordinators or management look for to make sure employees are following the rules. On a farm there will be situations where it is practical and others where it is not. Here are a few examples of the styles available.
CSA Workhorse Type 1 Hard Hat
MSA/CSA Hi-Visibility Hard Hat
Wide Brim CSA Hard Hat
The next step up for impact protection with the wide brim, would suffice for any safety measure taken when it comes to head protection. In my experience, I bought this model not for it’s specs, but for working outside in all elements, rain runs off the hard hat keeping your head dry and provides shade on extra hot days in the summer.
**Approved Hardhats must have a MSA/CSA Logo or identification on them for them to be eligible as safe head wear
Reflective Ball Caps
Safety Vest: Help with overall vision of a work site and a farm, florescent colours and stripes stick out and everybody can see where you. These are an obvious and simple safety measure.
3. Safe Job Procedures & Safe Work Practices
In a complete safety manual there are a number of protocol items (13 to be exact) but two of the most vital steps, in this NCSO’s opinion, that can directly help make farms safer are safe job procedures and safe work practices.
The difference between a SJP & SWP is, Safe Work Practices are written methods in performing a specific task with minimal risk e.g. Operating a tractor with a baler. While SJP’s are a step by step process that walks an employee if they’re not sure how, to complete a job from start to finish. What I like is that most producers know how the equipment works and how to be safe around them and it can be very easy to do because experience always trumps what someone else says or how a manual works for specific tools & machinery. Putting your experience into a document can do wonders for a health & safety program and gives you credibility when dealing with safety and when you hire employees. By having a documented approach, employees have the way you do things safely instead of going from what they think is right.
Every job, machine and task are different and there are methods that work well for you and maybe not others. Going through them and finding common ground can prevent a number of risks that could arise in any area of farming.
At De Paoli & Associates we help the Agricultural industry face challenges by improving operations and making them more successful. Overcoming the challenges of Bill 6, whilst improving operational safety, is something we are working with the industry on.