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St. Jacobs event marks national farm safety week

[Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

You may not have marked it off in your calendar, but we are in the midst of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, a campaign dedicating to promoting the importance on-farm safety.

Events are occurring countrywide this week. Locally, activities took place Wednesday at the St. Jacobs Community Centre, featuring several guest speakers and displays under the banner of  “Stop, Think, Act.”

One of the guest speakers was John Aird of Workplace Safety Intervention Services.

“He [talked] about the responsibilities that farmers have if they employ anyone other than immediate family members,” said organizer Heidi Wagner. “The Guide to Occupational Health and Safety Act that other businesses are subject to are also applied to farmers. And sometimes, they don’t understand that this is in effect.

“If there an injury or an incident on their farm, the Ministry of Labour has the right to come on the property and investigate. So it’s best to be prepared rather than have something happen and not realize that you’re not in compliance.”

In addition to the laws surrounding farm safety, guest speaker Rob Campbell of Waterloo’s Acute Environmental and Safety Services covered how to safely work within confined spaces, such as silos or barns. There is potential to encounter noxious fumes in these types of areas, so it is best to prepare before entering. Strategies include the use of proper safety equipment and forming an escape plan.

Police representatives addressed the importance of transporting farm equipment safely on roadways, as the results can be disastrous when not done correctly.

“So how they should be displaying lighting equipment and how they should be properly hitching up their equipment so that it’s safe to travel on the road,” said Wagner. “Because we’ve had some incidents and even fatalities where there’s been farm equipment on the road and been hit by cars or trucks.”

Woolwich Community Health Centre also showed educational videos and sponsored a poster contest to get kids involved.

“This year, we’ve encouraged the school children to draw a safety poster,” said Wagner.

The group kept the posters and gave out prizes to everyone who participated, including T-shirts, hats and toy tractors. Wagner stressed the importance of staying prepared not only during this week but at all times of the year.

“I think it’s the awareness that it can happen so quickly and it can change not only your life but your whole family, depending on what happens and how severe it is,” said Wagner. “So it’s just sort of to be cautious and to take that extra minute.”

The Stop, Think, Act promotion encourages farmers to remain cautious before starting a job.

“So before you attempt any job, stop – is it safe? Do you know what you’re doing? Are you clear on the instructions? Do you have the right equipment? And then think, do I need to ask more questions? Am I prepared for this?” said Wagner.

Only after going through those steps should a job be started. This way, any potential for injury will be reduced, she explained.

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is an annual public campaign hosted by the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association. This year, it takes place March 10 to 16 all across the country and is commemorated through various events, such as educational workshops.

“Everyone can agree that safety on the farm is important,” said Michael Hoffort, CEO of Farm Credit Canada in a release. “While farming can be dangerous, there are simple safety measures everyone can take to mitigate the risk.”

For more details visit www.agsafetyweek.ca.

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