There’s no doubt agriculture has come a long way in working toward creating a safer environment, from improved equipment to better crop protection labels to improved education. Yet accidents still happen. Are there ways you can maintain that focus year-round? It turns out you might be able to, but it might start with an on-farm safety inspection.
It’s not a new idea and during a recent interview, Farm Progress asked Jason Berkland, assistant vice president, risk management, Nationwide, about an inspection.
“Nationwide Agribusiness can perform a farm safety inspection,” he says. “We do risk management assessments. We’re doing them in-person or virtually right now.”
And while it may sound a little crazy to walk around your farm with a smartphone, showing images as your insurance company as an insurance risk management expert looks on from afar, Berkland says it’s time well spent. But aren’t you on the farm all the time? How would you miss a safety hazard?
Berkland says you can become blind to a safety hazard like a removed shield or a bad electrical panel. It’s kind of like that commercial for a popular air freshener that claims you can become “nose-blind.” Berkland says you can become “safety-blind” to hazards on your farm.
A second set of eyes checking out your farm’s systems can make a difference.
What they’re checking
Insurance companies use risk management experts, and they can make the inspection to identify areas of improvement. Berkland says that during a walkaround, that risk management associate would take a look at your electrical system. “We’ll take a look at your housekeeping,” he says. “We’ll look at your preventive maintenance, and any policies and procedures you have in place.”
That’s a key area. What is your system for maintenance? Do you have a plan ready for managing trouble in the grain bin? Nationwide has a strong position promoting grain bin safety, and 2020 was a tough year for bin entrapments.
During that inspection, you might be asked about your procedures for entering a grain bin. That tag-in, tag-out procedure can go a long way toward preventing a tragedy on the farm.
He also adds that not all farm processes stop at harvest. “You still have hog confinement and poultry operations that run every day,” he says. “There are many areas around those setups that should be inspected.”
Beyond grain bin safety, electrical systems should be kept not only up to date, but also clean. Berkland notes that fire risk is a major concern when reviewing a farm.
The skeptical reader may be thinking that the inspection will help make sure the company doesn’t pay a claim on your farm. And that’s the point. “We don’t want to pay a claim. We’d rather prevent you from having a claim. Our job is to partner with the grower, with that commercial operation, and be that extra set of eyes that show them what trends are happening based on our loss data.”
Consider your ‘fleet’
Berkland notes that farmers may not be surprised by the fact that auto losses are a huge concern these days for farms. The more semis you add to move grain, the greater the risk of accidents on the road.
And some farms have evolved their truck use. What was once a single semi to move grain from field to storage, or from storage to elevator, may have evolved to two, three or more trucks — and moving more than grain to keep those drivers employed year-round. Those kinds of risks should be part of your regular assessment.
“It’s better to have the right insurance, and make sure drivers have the right license for the fleet,” he adds. “If you had a driver you thought had a commercial license and perhaps you didn’t check the driver’s motor vehicle registration, and something happens? All your farm and your assets are riding in the driver seat of that truck. So, it’s scary.”
Berkland recommends the safety assessment every few years. That would be a conversation to have with your preferred agent. It’s something to consider this winter.