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Second Pilot of Alberta FarmSafe Plan Wraps Up in Time for Ag Safety Week (PCN Spring 2015) MAR 25 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

The second pilot of Alberta Agriculture’s FarmSafe Plan helped farm owners and managers get their FarmSafe Plans on the road to completion at two-day workshops in four cities while offering feedback on how to make the plan manual easier to use.

“Some of the feedback was really positive that this is what the industry and farmers need,” said Laurel Aitken, Farm Safety Coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). “On the other end, people said it is just too overwhelming. The manual we have is kind of the Cadillac, in that it leads to a formal written safety plan for a farm but I think we need to offer an introductory level as well for people who are not ready to take it on. That’s where the feedback has been really helpful to us.”

Aitken said that she secured three years of Growing Forward 2 funding for development of the Alberta FarmSafe Plan manual and workshop, which is a resource to help Alberta farmers create their own health and safety management system.

According to a recent Farm Credit Canada survey, 85 per cent of Canadian producers stated that safety is a priority on their farm. However, less than one in 10 farmers have a written agricultural safety plan. In response to these statistics, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) built a tool that farmers can use to put their words into action. CASA developed the Canada FarmSafe Plan to make it easy for farmers to manage safety and health on their operations.

Aitken and ARD’s Farm Safety team worked with CASA to develop an Alberta version of the Canada FarmSafe plan. The first pilot of which took place last year with nine farmers, and resulted in the development of the manual that was used in the second pilot by about 50 participants.

“It seems to have made quite a difference in terms of ease of use,” she said, noting that the participants came from a wide range of farm sizes and types. “The needs seem to be quite different depending on the size of the operation. That’s where we have to look at our evaluations and our feedback. We have to look at whether we offer a different process for farms with no employees versus those with a number of employees, or break them down further by types of farming.”

A completed FarmSafe Plan provides the necessary components for farms to obtain an Alberta Certificate of Recognition (COR), which qualifies farms for discounts on Workers’ Compensation Board premiums.

“The obvious plus is any farms with COR certification receive a discount off their WCB rate,” Aitken said. “That’s motivating financially, but you will also have a safer farm in place, so you and your family are going to work safe and go home safe.”

In addition, having a written safety plan in place will help to decrease liability for farmers in the case of civil or criminal lawsuits, Aitken said.

Alberta farms are not required by law to obtain a Certificate of Recognition, but Aitken said that the development of the Alberta FarmSafe Plan brings Alberta in line with other industries regarding safety. It also allows farmers to lead by example, which is similar to the Agricultural Safety Week (March 15-21) theme of Be the Difference.

“The whole Be the Difference theme is be willing to stand out and make that change on your farm and be an example for your community,” Aitken said. “Be willing to put yourself out there on the leading edge of safety.”

APG Director-at-Large (Non-Bean) Sarah Weigum said that she participated in the second pilot so that she could see what farm safety resources are available to farmers.

She noted that the process may seem overwhelming at first, but when it is broken down and explained, it becomes more manageable. For example, the regular daily coffee breaks taken by Weigum’s family and one paid employee at their seed farm near Three Hills could count as daily safety meetings. However, she added that in order to meet official safety program requirements, you do need to document that these meetings took place and what was talked about.

“If you are a producer and want to reduce your premiums or liability, I think it definitely is a good start for getting into the manual and going through some of it,” Weigum said. “It’s not as hard as you think, but it is going to take some time and effort to complete. If you have a lot of employees, it would be a helpful session.”

Aitken said that she is already taking names for the next round of workshops to take place in Fall 2015 using a FarmSafe Plan manual that takes into account the feedback from this year’s workshops. Email for more information.