Agriculture

 

The agriculture industry in Canada has a longstanding tradition of passing the torch from one generation to the next and is a point of pride within the fabric of our nation that we hold so dear. It also represents work environments that have to be taken very seriously and require extra diligence by young workers. Parents and other adults who are in their sphere of influence have an opportunity to really make a difference in ensuring these young workers arrive home safe every night. While some of us have the perception that farms are somewhat idyllic settings, nothing could be further from the truth.

Hazards

Below are some of the most common agriculture hazards:

 

Musculoskeletal Disorders: Many workplace tasks that young people working in agriculture face all day, every day involve repeating the same process over and over. This is especially true in work related to picking fruit or vegetables as well as work within processing facilities. This also applies to the landscaping field where there may be repeated motions related to planting and digging. These kinds of work can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, strains, sprains and other injuries.

Lifting heavy objects in extreme or awkward postures as well as bending, pushing, pulling and reaching can also cause injury.

 

Machinery:  Machinery is a part of everyday life on most farm operations and as such can never be taken for granted.  While guarding is built into machinery wherever possible, it in of itself is no guarantee that working with machinery will be safe.

 

Moving Vehicles: Tractors, skid steers, frontloaders, backhoes and fork lifts are common on many farms and are the cause of many injuries and fatalities; both for occupants of these vehicles and those who may be struck by them. Caution must be taken in their safe operation as well as in working around them.

 

Noise: Farm equipment that is noisy can cause harm in ways that may not seem obvious.  Young people may assume that noise is only dangerous if it exceeds certain volume levels. It can also cause long term hearing loss if one is exposed to it for long periods of time at less than deafening levels.

Confined Spaces:  Silos, grain bins and manure pits may appear to be harmless environments. These locations may have inadequate oxygen levels, toxic gases or high levels of dust which can cause permanent lung damage or death.

 

Animal handling:  While many farm animals are generally docile, they must be treated with great care due to their potential to cause harm.  They have the potential to kick, bite, step on or pin workers against hard surfaces. They can also be carriers of transmittable diseases.

 

Fatigue: Fatigue is a leading cause of injury and death on farms due to the long hours regularly needed to get jobs done.  While some operations run more traditional shifts, others, especially family operations can subscribe to the ‘do the job till it’s done’ philosophy.  When young workers are tired their attention to hazards may slip.

 

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): PPE of one form or another is crucial in virtually all ag operations.  One constant is proper footwear, usually steel toed boots.  Proper helmets, eye protection, hearing protections, gloves and other PPE need to be worn depending on the equipment and the circumstances.

Discussions

Do they have to do much heavy lifting or repeat tasks over and over? Are there regularly scheduled breaks?  Do they ever lift items that are too heavy? Have they been given any training in safe lifting?

 

Discuss the kinds of equipment that your young worker works around and whether they operate it.  Have they been trained on its safe operation? Do they feel comfortable operating it? Is the right PPE available for its safe operation? Does anyone operate it recklessly?

 

The same conversation as above regarding motor vehicles.

 

Do they work in noisy environments? Do they have proper hearing PPE?

Do they have to work in confined spaces?  Have they been trained in working in confined spaces? Are they aware of the dangers of confined spaces?  Are they given proper PPE for their work in confined spaces

 

Does everyone take wearing PPE seriously? Do their employers? Do they ever run out of PPE (earplugs, masks, etc.)?

 

How do they feel about working outdoors in the hot weather.  Is there sunscreen offered to workers who work outdoors in hot weather? If not, do they have it to take with them?

Do they ever feel dehydrated? Is water readily available? Are they expected to bring their own liquids? Do they?

 

Do they do any work around animals? Are they comfortable with it? Has anyone been injured working with animals? Are proper precautions taken when working with the animals? Have they been trained?

 

Do they ever have to work overtime? Do they ever work with equipment when working long hours. Do they ever feel sleepy towards the end of these shifts?

 

Do they know their worker rights? Would they feel comfortable starting the work refusal process?

 

The Ministry of Labour offers Mandatory Worker Awareness Training.  It outlines responsibilities of workplace parties, rights and hazards and is highly recommended.

 

Psychosocial hazards like bullying and sexual harassment are considered workplace hazards as well.  Please read the section on Psychosocial Hazards and gently probe to find out if they are a factor at your young worker’s job.

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