Focus on the family at farm safety rally set for Mar. 15 in St. Jacobs

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Heidi Wagner of WCHC says this year’s safety rally is all about reducing fatal incidents on farms. [File Photo]
With Canadian Ag Safety Week on the horizon, the Woolwich Community Health Centre is putting the spotlight on family safety initiatives at an upcoming event.

Rural community health worker Heidi Wagner invites everyone working or living on a farm to come to the St. Jacobs Lions Hall on Mar. 15 to learn more about how to stay safe in an agricultural workplace or home.

This year’s focus is “Being an Ag Safe Family” – similar to last year’s theme, but this year, the rally will be focusing on adults and what they can do to mitigate the risks of a farm operation.

On a farm, a deadly or injurious incident can happen in a split second, and with the Stop, Think and Act initiative, Wagner says many farm incidents can be avoided.

“Before you do anything, you need to stop, think about what could go wrong, whether you are well equipped to do this job, and then think about whether there is anything you need to do make it safer, and then you act. It isn’t just going into a job without thinking ahead,” she said. “You can put that to use in everyday life, all the time, even with something like crossing the street. If people can get that as a mindset before they take shortcuts or before they do something that could cause an injury, just to take a second.”

A new addition at this year’s safety rally is a focus on mental health. The mental well-being of farmers is something Wagner says doesn’t come up very often, but if there are mental health needs that aren’t being addressed, it can cause big problems.

“Mental health and farming go together, but people sometimes have the image that all farmers are happy and just working in the sunshine, toughing it out, but there are so many factors that come into play that they just don’t have control over,” she said. “You can’t control if it is going to rain enough, they can’t control the prices of their product which can be an added stressor. But, there are so many things that they can control. They can control their work environment, making sure they are working safely and profitably. If you are worrying about crops, personal matters or whatever farmers worry about, how safe are you when you are working?”

A WCHC counsellor will be on hand to help farmers deal with the isolation that comes with working and living on the farm, and how to manage negative thoughts that can distract workers and families from the task at hand.

Agricultural-related deaths have been in decline over the last few years, and with the Farm Safety Rally, Wagner says WCHC wants to help keep those numbers going down.

“Just looking at the statistics here, from 1990-2001, there was an average of 116 people who died. From 2002-2012, it dropped to 85 per year. We want to keep reducing those numbers. It is still a lot of people, but we’re hoping that people become even more aware of what they can do to avoid becoming one of those numbers,” she said.

The Farm Safety Rally takes place on Mar. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and will run for about two hours. There will be door prizes, refreshments and snacks available. No pre-registration is required and the event is open to anyone. To learn more, call WCHC at 519-664-3794.