Safety on the farm - Safety investments pay biggest dividends
Farm health and safety expert Glen Blahey is no investment counsellor. But he tells farmers that the money they spend on safety equipment and protective gear will always have the greatest returns.
“Take the purchase of an open station tractor,” says Blahey, who works for the Winnipeg-based Canadian Agricultural Safety Association – or CASA – a national non-profit group that works to reduce injuries and enhance safe practices in agriculture.
“A rollover protective structure (ROPS) is standard equipment on new tractors. In the case of a used tractor without one, it’s around $1,700 to buy and install one.”
Despite the absence of any cashable returns, Blahey thinks the decision on whether or not to buy the added protection is a no-brainer.
“It will protect the farmer, the family, workers, partners and whoever else may use that machine,” Blahey says. Tractor rollovers, he adds, normally result in fatal or life-altering injuries.
According to statistics from Canada’s national farming surveillance project, Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (www.cair-sbac.ca), sideways and backward tractor rollovers account for roughly one-third of the 100-plus agricultural deaths that occur on average each year across Canada. In addition to the human cost and suffering to self, family and friends, the economic impacts can also be severe in terms of lost wages and revenues.
Groups like CASA promote the use of ROPSs, seat belts and other safe practices that have nearly eliminated rollover deaths and injuries in other countries. Blahey says farmers get a big bang for their buck when they spend on everything from safety boots that protect from crush injuries by animals or machines to safety glasses, hearing protection and respiratory equipment.
“If the purchase of fairly inexpensive safety equipment can stop a chunk of metal that flies off a grinder from landing in your eye, or prevent dusty materials and biological agents from going into your lungs,” Blahey says, “the positive investment-versus-payoff ratio is almost immeasurable.”
He estimates the average annual costs of farm safety equipment to be roughly $2,500 – all of it tax deductible. Blahey believes, however, that the best and most critical safety investment a producer can make is absolutely free.
“Every farm needs a safety plan,” Blahey says. “There should be an established process for standard operating and in emergency situations.”
CASA offers a downloadable safety plan model for every type of production in Canada on its website, www.casa-acsa.ca.
“All it takes is your time,” Blahey says. “You’ll never find a better investment opportunity.”
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