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Who Does Safety Risk Management on Your Farm?

Remember the cost of accidents when making decisions.

An interesting conversation developed while talking with a farm dad just the other day. We were talking about ages at which rural kids should be allowed to drive tractors on the road. The dad allowed that his youngest probably wouldn't drive a tractor on the road until she had her driver's license.

Right or wrong, a driver's license isn't technically required to operate a farm tractor on Indiana roadways. The dad was well aware of that. A wry smile spread across his face as he explained, "We have an in-house safety risk manager on our farm," he said.

Huh? Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake. Then it dawned on me- of course- his wife, mom! She's the one always holding everyone accountable for things like wearing helmets when operating four-wheelers and following safety rules carefully.

What an interesting idea! Maybe everyone should have a safety risk management specialist on their farm staff. Obviously, it's not a paid position, and it might be just one of many duties assigned to someone. And while everyone should be thinking about safety all the time, perhaps it's a good idea to have someone who makes it their job to watch out fro potential hazards, either in terms of injury or liability.

Bill Field, Purdue University Extension ag engineer and farm safety specialist, says unfortunately, some businesses in the corporate world are taking the opposite approach. He's aware of some that are shelving their safety programs, including laying off or reassigning skilled people in charge of those programs, as a cost-cutting measure in these tough times.

"That might work out well for them for a while," he notes. "The savings in not having the safety employee of the safety program might even make their bottom line look better. That's all well and good until the day the big disaster hits."

And they do it, Field notes. He's seen many cases end in million dollar or more settlements, some of them involving accidents on the farm. And research data he and his staff have gathered over the years reveal that even non-fatal accidents take a heavy toll, both financially and emotionally, on the people involved. If it happens to one of your employees, it may affect your family, even though you weren't directly involved in the accident.

There are many reasons to play it safe this spring as the tractors and sprayers roll out of the shed and onto the roadway. Reducing liability exposure and saving money in insurance premiums might not be the most precious reasons for following safety rules and thinking about safety, but they certainly are real issues.

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