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Farming is a way of life for many Canadian families - and one of the most hazardous occupations. The statistics tell the tale. Agriculture has the highest rate of disabling injuries and farmers are five times more likely to die from work-related injuries than workers in all other industries. In Canada each year, rural families and their communities feel the needless suffering and loss of more than 100 people who are killed, and 1499 others who are seriously injured in farm-related incidents, reports the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program.
One of the most common causes of injury and death is the unsafe use of equipment. These injuries can be prevented by taking necessary safety precautions. Farm owners are responsible for the safety of their workers. They must ensure that employees and family workers are trained on the proper and safe ways to do their jobs. The risk of injury and illness can be reduced by taking preventive steps such as conducting routine hazard checks on equipment, buildings and grounds - and correcting problems immediately.
General Tips for Working Safely with Farm Equipment
70% of all farm fatalities involve agricultural machines, according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program. Follow these tips when working with or around farm equipment:
- Read and follow the operator's safety manual and product labels for each piece of farm equipment being used.
- Ensure that workers have been trained and are capable of safely using the farm equipment.
- Be alert. Get enough rest, take breaks as needed and do not drink alcohol before operating equipment.
- Keep children away from the working area.
- Ensure all guards, shields, and access doors are in place when the equipment is in operation. If they must be removed for any reason, ensure that the equipment is not operated until they are put back on. Replace any missing or damaged guards or shields.
- Always stop the engine, disconnect the power source, and wait for all moving parts to stop, before servicing, adjusting, cleaning, or unclogging equipment. Allow the engine to cool before refuelling.
General Tractor Safety
Tractors are the single biggest causes of deaths and injuries on the farm, with tractor roll overs and runovers causing almost half of all farm fatalities. Keep safety in mind at all times and follow these guidelines to safely work with tractors:
- Know how to use the tractor safely. Know the location and function of the controls and how to stop the tractor quickly in the event of an emergency.
- Properly train and supervise new operators before allowing them to drive.
- Before starting the tractor, inspect the vehicle. Check for parts that might have been loosened and tighten or replace any parts that are not in good working order. Check the oil and fuel level when the engine is cool.
- Wear clothing that is snugly fitted so it won't get caught in the machinery, and that protects (e.g. steel shank boots, long pants). Use personal protective equipment (e.g. eye protection) where necessary.
- Do not allow riders on a tractor - there should only be one person on board.
- Install an approved roll over protective structure (ROPS) and seat belt - and use them.
- Place the tractor in neutral or park before starting it, and only start the engine from the driver's seat. Never bypass start the engine (operator "bypasses" safety procedures and the normal starting system - e.g. touching a screwdriver to the starter contacts to activate the engine). This is extremely dangerous. There is a risk of losing control of the vehicle and it could hit someone - injuring or even killing them.
- Disengage the gears and turn the engine off before leaving the tractor unattended.
- Hitch loads only to the drawbar - no higher. When using three-point rear hitches or hauling heavy loads, add front-end weights to maintain stability and control steering.
Driving the Tractor Safely
- Before starting the tractor, make sure no one is behind, under or in front of it.
- When driving the tractor, start slowly, change gears carefully, and when pulling a heavy load, apply the power slowly.
- To avoid rolling the tractor over, stay away from ditches, steep slopes, and streams.
- Back up hills - it is safer.
- Slow down when turning, crossing slopes, or driving on rough, slick, or muddy surfaces.
- When travelling on the road, or at higher speeds, lock the brake pedals together for single action braking.
This article has focused on equipment and tractor safety, however there are many other hazards on a farm, such as livestock handling, agrochemicals and hearing loss. For more information on these topics, visit the resource links provided.
More about tractor safety from CCOHS
Alberta Farm Safety Centre
Information on safe use of other types of farm equipment, Texas State University, Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management
Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program
Farm Safety Association
Fact sheet on tractor safety, Farm Safety Association
Two workers in a welding shop were testing the welds on two "pig traps" (oil pipeline vessels that enable pipeline tools to be loaded and unloaded into the pipeline). To do this, they pressurized the pig traps to 2,150 psi.
Once the test was completed, one of the workers (a young worker) began to dismantle the connection between the pig trap that was being tested and the pressure-recording device. The piping had not been depressurized first. As he used a pipe wrench to try to remove a test tee, it did not unthread from the valve. Instead, the valve itself unthreaded from the pipe nipple that connected it to the still-pressurized pig traps, and sent the valve and the test tee shooting upwards - hitting the worker. The worker died after surgery as a result of the injuries he sustained.
WorkSafeBC issued a hazard alert offering the following safe work practices:
- Ensure that a pressurized system is completely depressurized before carrying out any work on the system.
- Establish and enforce written safe work procedures for pressure-testing operations that include:
- a step-by-step process for pressurizing and depressurizing a system, including instructions for the required safety devices (pressure relief valve, pressure gauge, etc.)
- the number of workers needed to perform pressure tests safely
- the specific role of each worker during pressure testing
- Provide new and young workers with the required orientation and training. Keep records of all orientations and training.
- Supervise workers adequately during pressure testing, to ensure safety.
Read the full alert from WorkSafeBC.
When it comes to work-related injury, "newness" can mean higher risk. This is just one of the topics explored in a new series of "Issue Briefings" launched by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH). Issue Briefings provide summaries of research findings, from IWH and elsewhere, written in plain language, on various topics that are of particular interest to policy-makers.
New research is showing that "newness" in the labour market is associated with a higher risk of work-related injury. Whether it's young workers, workers of all ages who are new to their jobs, newly immigrated workers or employees in newly established firms, the evidence indicates that these workers face higher injury rates and/or more hazardous jobs. The IWH Issue Briefing summarizes the key research behind these findings and explores the implications for policy-makers in governments and health and safety service providers.
Many aspects of newness were examined in the IWH research and highlights of key findings are summarized below.
New to labour market
Young men experienced a higher rate of work-related injury than other workers, but much of this increased injury risk came from the fact that they were more likely to be new to their jobs, in high risk occupations, and/or in jobs requiring a high degree of physical effort.
New to job
Workers on the job for less than a month had four times as many compensation claims as more experienced workers who held their current job for more than a year. Part of this increase is attributed to the fact that most new workers do not receive adequate training. In a recent study, over 75% of employees in their first year of employment indicated that they had not received health and safety training.
New to Canada
Recent immigrants are new to this country as well as to their jobs. Male immigrants in their first five years in Canada reported twice the rate of work-related injuries requiring medical attention, compared to Canadian-born male workers. There are a number of possible reasons for this finding including the fact that recent immigrants are more likely than Canadian-born workers to be in physically demanding and/or risky occupations.
New firms opening in the previous or current year had a 25% higher rate of workers' compensation claims than other firms. One of the possible reasons for this observation could be that training new workers in occupational health and safety may be difficult for a new firm to manage if it has many new workers within a short period of time.
For years CCOHS has been providing Canadians with the information they need to help them work safely. From OSH Answers on the website, to e-learning to webinars, CCOHS has a long standing tradition of using technology to reach and serve Canadians. Now CCOHS has taken the next step: information in a portable, audio mp3 format.
CCOHS recently launched Health and Safety to Go!, a new podcast series offering "bite" sized episodes on a variety of workplace health, safety and wellness issues. They run from 7 to 10 minutes long, and best of all, they're free.
Each episode is designed to keep you current and provide helpful tips and insights into the well-being of working Canadians. The series launched with interviews offering insights and perspectives on Day of Mourning, influenza planning, and young worker safety. In the fall, the series is expanding to twice monthly and will include episodes that focus on commonly asked health and safety questions, and offer practical tips to employers and workers.
This month's podcast addresses working in the heat - how hot is too hot? Jan Chappel of CCOHS explains what heat stress is, what factors influence it, and who is at risk. Jan also discusses the causes and symptoms of heat stress, and shares tips that workers can use to stay safe when working in extreme heat.
Listen to an episode of Health and Safety To Go! for yourself. You can download the audio file to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience. Or better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed; as new episodes are released they are downloaded automatically and stored until you are ready to listen.
Listen to segments that satisfy your curiosity, keep you in the know and help to inspire change.
See the complete listing of CCOHS podcasts.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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