Making the Business Case for Farm Safety
Did you know that safety plans and procedures are good for business? In fact, farm safety is an essential aspect of any successful and long-lasting farm operation.
We all know that there are inherent risks with working in agriculture. According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR), agriculture ranks as the fourth most hazardous industry in Canada with fatal injury rates. And in terms of absolute numbers of fatalities, there is no more dangerous occupation.
Agriculture is unique because farms and ranches aren’t just worksites but also places where people of all ages live and take part in recreational activities. That means while farmers and farm workers are at risk of serious injuries, so too are farm families. According to data from CAIR, between 2006 and 2015, 84 children and youth lost their lives to agriculture-related injuries.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. That’s why safety needs to be included with any farm business risk management plan. Looking at safety from an economic perspective can benefit your farm business’ bottom line, but more importantly, it will ensure the wellbeing of your family, workers, and visitors.
After all, there’s no question that safety risks on the farm have business and financial consequences, along with physical and emotional impacts. That’s why it’s good business practice to prevent safety risks before they happen and assess them just like any other business risk.
Think of it this way: farm safety risk management is like the business principle of “a dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned.” That’s because a loss prevented is worth more than increased production. Start by reviewing the potential direct and indirect costs of injuries to get a complete picture of the financial implications that safety issues will have on your operation’s success and longevity.
Of course, embracing safety as a business practice also means changing how people look at farm safety.
- Instead of viewing farming as an exception to workplace safety legislation, keep in mind that farming is a career/business operation and that a farm is a workplace.
- Rather than thinking, “Farm safety restricts me and keeps from doing certain things,” consider it from a risk management perspective and how it will improve your business and personal life.
The 2020 Canadian Ag Safety Study conducted by FCC Market Insights found that 72% of producers have had an injury or close call on their operation at some point in their lifetime. And though these producers are more likely to recognize health and safety risks, they are less motivated to improve safety on their farm than producers who have not had an incident.
While there are various reasons for this behaviour, a contributing factor is certainly because many people think creating a safety plan is a long and challenging process. However, dealing with the aftermath of a serious workplace injury or fatality is a far longer and more complicated process.
The truth is that safety plans and procedures are easy to establish. Not to mention that the long-term benefits of safety measures FAR outweigh any efforts involved with creating farm safety plans and procedures.
There are four main steps to take in making farms safer for everyone:
- Commitment. First and foremost, there must be a commitment to farm safety and health communicated to everyone who lives on, works at, and visits the farm.
- Hazard recognition. Recognize and acknowledge hazards on the farm to understand what can impact progress. Be mindful that hazards can be biological, chemical, ergonomic, physical, or lifestyle.
- Control strategies. Implement control strategies for the hazards. These strategies fall into five categories: personal wellness assessments, integrated safety standard operating procedures, emergency response plans, training; or investigations.
- Communication. Communicate safety and health measures with everyone at the farm.
Want to make safety part of your farm business risk management plan but not sure where to start? To help take the guess work out of developing a robust safety program, CASA’s Canada FarmSafe Plan is available to download: www.casa-acsa.ca/en/resources/canada-farmsafe-plan/.
Remember that investing in safety means investing in the well-being of your family, your employees, and, of course, your business.
For more than a decade, CASA has been raising awareness about the importance of safety on Canadian farms through Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW), which takes place every year during the third week of March. CASW is presented by Farm Credit Canada. In 2022, CASW sponsors include long-time corporate sponsor Farm Credit Canada, as well as CN, Syngenta, Bayer Crop Science, and Fertilizer Canada.
Article written by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, with edits by Elite Agri Solutions.