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Farm Safety – Workplace Activity Factors

The nature of farming generates a number of areas of workplace activity that can be inherently riskier than similar activities undertaken in an office or factory environment.

Working hours

The length of hours someone works on a farm is normally considerably longer than that generated by someone working elsewhere. The nature of the work means that it must be undertaken with a speed and intensity that spans several hours. It is not uncommon for people working on a farm to spend between 60 and 80 hours a week working. If someone also owns a farm, they will see it not so much as a job as an investment in their family life.

Management

On a farm, there is not the traditional separation between management and labor that there is normally in a business. This means that management often does not have a clear focus on issues affecting health and safety, and there is more of a tendency to blur the lines, which can lead to an increased risk factor, which must be managed by all. the agents.

Work pace and routine

In most jobs, there is a degree of stability in terms of routine and regular work pace, although this can often be punctuated by extremely busy periods. Farm work is quite different in that very often there is no type of routine and the pace can vary from very slow to very fast.

A farm’s routine will vary depending on the season, the work to be done, the weather, and the number of employees available to work. Many farms employ seasonal workers, often for specific types of jobs like grape harvesting or picking corn. Much of the work is only done at certain times of the year, often once or twice a year.

This means that people who work on a farm full time do not get the different levels of experience that they need and would normally get other types of jobs.

These two things, the pace and routine of work, can create a degree of uncertainty and instability, which is manageable from a work perspective, but which by its very nature makes work more dangerous and increases the risk of injury. and harm to individuals.

Training

Farming doesn’t really have any formal training as such, most of the learning is done on the job. This was true for many industries until very recently, but for many it has changed significantly lately, and training is now seen as something that needs to be done formally, outside of the day-to-day nature of the work. .

This means that formal training in areas such as safety, fire prevention, manual handling, etc., is carried out in a classroom type setting and is normally supported by a series of policies and procedures.

Agriculture does not do that. There may be people working in the agricultural industry who have university degrees in different aspects of agriculture and horticulture, but apart from that there will be little formal training. This means that there is little structural context for health and safety and risk management, and it is up to individual farms and farm owners to ensure that best workplace practices are applied.

Technology

Technology is rapidly changing the way farming takes place, from the advent of driverless tractors to the use of drones, from specific weather forecasts to all types of robotic animal feeding. This use of technology carries additional risks, both in terms of the use of the technology itself and the law of unintended consequences. While many people are embracing the technology, and this can undoubtedly make a huge difference to the nature of farming, there is also a need for it to be managed in a business context, with proper risk assessment made of its benefits and risks, and how its misuse could be seriously harmful.

It’s really important in all types of technology, as with a lot of agricultural and agricultural machinery, that the people using it have a level of skill appropriate to their age and, where possible, that they receive training formal, possibly online, to ensure they are using it safely and appropriately.

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