One of the benefits of my job is the opportunity to travel to media events to check out new equipment and technology. Recently, at Caterpillar in Peoria, Ill., the media event started with a safety briefing. Yep, a briefing for the members of the media in the room about exits and other features we needed to know.
That wasn’t the first safety briefing I’ve heard. Pioneer also provides a briefing ahead of any event. And this got me thinking. Do farmers do safety briefings?
It may sound silly, but perhaps not, as farming is still considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. Based on a few safety briefings I’ve been in, I offer up my first attempt at a framework for your first safety briefing. You can refine to fit your farm, but consider doing this with family and employees ahead of busy times.
Essentially, the point of a safety briefing is to bring the topic to the forefront before everyone gets busy. And while what follows may sound repetitive, even veteran farmers can find themselves in trouble if they ignore a few key steps. Here are seven topic areas to consider in designing your farm safety briefing:
Slow-moving vehicle signs. Those orange and red triangles are important tools that should be on the back of all your farm equipment that moves over the road. Note, that’s the only place those signs belong. As my friend and farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson points out every year, the SMV sign is for vehicles, not to use as cheap reflectors for your mailbox post or elsewhere around the farm. But they should be clean and ready for the busy seasons.
Guards in place. For decades, farm equipment manufacturers have designed machines with safety shields and guards to protect users. Even if they create a maintenance hassle, these guards should be replaced before operation.
Rest. This is a topic that’s too-often overlooked. When the weather is against you, the 20-hour day seems like a great idea, but fatigue is a key cause of farm accidents. Consider, and encourage, a nap or a good night’s sleep to help keep everyone safe.
Awareness. This is harder to teach, but in a safety briefing, remind family members and employees that being aware is important. Whether it’s in regards to power lines an auger could hit or fast-moving machines in the farm yard, maintaining awareness is important.
Exits. During the safety briefings I’ve attended, the exits are always pointed out. That’s important for farmers, too, whether it’s machine exits, bin doors or other release areas from tight spaces. Everyone should know what and where these are.
Communication. A clear communication plan, especially if trouble strikes, could help. For example, if something bad happens, who’s calling 911? Five of you hitting the dispatcher at once could cause a problem. Assigning key communication tasks to employees and notifying the rest can be important in crisis.
Remember the dangerous game. Agriculture can be a killer. From limbs removed by augers to injuries caused on the road, the risks are many and significant. Alert use of equipment and safely working around the farm are critical.
Planning a safety briefing at least twice a year may sound like overkill but consider it for one year and take feedback on refinements. Preplanting and preharvesting safety briefings for your farm won’t be wasted time.
Let me know your thoughts on this idea; email firstname.lastname@example.org.