by Paul Vickers,
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The importance of farm safety cannot be overstated, especially during the busy planting and harvesting seasons. Across the agri-food industry, we’ve all been touched by on-farm accidents and injuries. While farmers across the province are working tirelessly to plan and prepare for the upcoming growing season, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) encourages everyone to make farm safety a priority.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for communities across Ontario. As schools and childcare centres remain closed during the state of emergency, it means there will be an influx of children and youth around the farm as seed begins to go into the ground. When farm families are meeting to discuss daily or weekly farm plans, including a plan that identifies safe play areas and age appropriate chores can be a good way to keep kids safe.
In an effort to increase the importance and awareness of farm safety, OFA has launched a digital campaign sharing materials and guidelines from organizations and associations, like the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), that provide practical hands-on resources to help keep everyone safe from planting through to harvest. With child-friendly videos from Progressive Agriculture Safety Days and training programs for young workers from Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, OFA will be providing conversation-starters to equip parents, family members and farm managers as the season unfolds. Having a conversation, educating and implementing preventative measures can be key methods to help keep everyone safe on the farm.
Utilizing suitable resources for kids, like the farm safety contract or toolbox talks published by CASA, can help to ensure all generations understand how to play safely around the farm. This year, communication, signage, documentation and frequent check-ins will be more important than ever. Ensuring that everyone on the farm team understands safety protocols and equipment, and that all generations are clear on their roles and responsibilities for watching young children throughout the day, will give everyone the necessary peace of mind.
The most valuable asset in promoting and implementing safety on the farm is the people. However, we acknowledge and understand the busy spring season is also accompanied with a heightened sense of mental stress and exhaustion, which at times, can result in accidents and injuries. OFA’s website and communications will also feature important reminders and resources for coping with exhaustion, maintaining mental health and options for reaching out for professional help in cases of extreme distress. To access these resources, visit ofa.on.ca/issues/mental-health.
As part of our ongoing commitment to promote farm safety, earlier this year OFA launched a photo contest encouraging members, their families and employees to submit photos that demonstrate and showcase safe farm practices on their farms and on the roads. We want to see farm and road safety at work on farms across the province. For more details about the photo contest, visit ofa.on.ca/photocontest.
As farmers, let’s all do our part to ensure families across the province have a safe and successful growing season.