April 25, 2022 at 1:35 p.m.
“I like to talk about asset management on the farm and how that also includes people,” Schossow said. “I typically say the most important assets on the farm are the people.”
Schossow shared tools for keeping people safe on the farm as part of a summit given by AgrAbility April 7 at Organic Valley in Cashton.
Schossow said safety begins with being able to identify a hazard. Getting to the root cause of injury, illness or fatality when it does happen can help prevent hazards in the future.
“One of the root causes of farm injury is the failure to recognize or identify hazards which then leads to that increased risk,” Schossow said.
Schossow introduced what she called the hierarchy of controls which she finds to be a helpful tool for thinking through risks.
“It can be really overwhelming to walk on a farm and point out all the hazards,” Schossow said. “Breaking it down into a framework can help keep it simple no matter who you are working with.”
There are five categories in the hierarchy of controls of how to manage the risks presented on a farm.
Elimination is the act of physically removing the risk. A good example of this is how a lot of dairies have moved from having a bull on the farm to using artificial insemination.
“Elimination is the most effective,” Schossow said. “It also tends to be the hardest to do and the most expensive.”
Substitution is similar; sometimes people can simply use a different product. There are medications that pose less health risks in the case of a needle stick. There can also be cases where updating equipment can be a substitute and inherently pose less risk.
Schossow said engineering controls are one of the biggest areas that are expensive, even though they work well.
“Covers for PTOs and keeping shields on augers and in good condition is huge and is something that can really catch up on folks,” Schossow said. “That’s always a really good place to look.”
Other engineering suggestions include cages around ladders, the use of harnesses when entering facilities from above and the use of rollover protection systems.
“Tractors are the No. 1 cause of death on a farm,” Schossow said. “The use of rollover protection systems and seatbelts are 99% effective at preventing death.”
There are programs that will either cost share or pay for engineering older equipment to be retrofitted to include safety systems. Schossow points to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which has a resource on its website for people to view options on how to go about retrofitting older equipment.
Administrative controls come from the people who work in the offices of an organization, implementing and enforcing systems such as a lock out tag out procedure.
“Especially when there are multiple people, someone doesn’t power something on while someone else is working on it,” Schossow said.
Administrative controls can also look like having safety data sheets around. A simple action is a quick meeting to lay out a plan with the people working on the farm so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Personal protective equipment is the last and least effective hierarchy control to manage risk.
“The ones that I think about a ton are respiratory equipment,” Schossow said. “Wearing an N95 (mask) around grain dust, in particular, can do a lot for you.”
UMASH developed checklists for farmers with ideas on how to implement the hierarchy of controls in different situations.
“This can be an overwhelming topic, and we would rather have people do something rather than nothing,” Schossow said.
There are ways to make farming safer, and the checklists highlight the key areas for any given topic.
Schossow encourages farmers to make a plan. Sit down with the team and answer the three questions of: Why do we want a safe and healthy farm? What will we do to be a safe and healthy farm? How will we make sure everyone who comes to our farm is safe and healthy?
From there, people can identify risks and have a plan to manage them. A list of actions or safety behaviors can help guide the discussion.
Schossow said all data aside, people should always stop, think and act. When in a busy situation at the farm, she encourages people to stop long enough to think about what they are about to do. Think about how they are going to do it, and ask themselves if it is the safest way to do the task. And then, act in the safest way possible.
“What we hear a lot is that someone says, ‘Oh, I wasn’t thinking,’ or, ‘I was moving too fast,’” Schossow said. “You don’t always have to slow down to really think about what it is that you’re doing.”
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