Originally published in the October 28, 2019 edition of Agri-News
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is an important step to injury prevention for a wide range of farm work.
Just like buckling a seatbelt before driving, reaching for PPE should be an automatic action prior to starting many jobs.
“Hazards exist in many different forms on the farm workplace,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Sometimes the hazards are obvious, such as a broken ladder or a rotating PTO shaft. But, what farm workers may be less likely to recognize are the hidden hazards, such as exposure to chemicals, dust or noise.”
If it is not possible to eliminate a hazard with engineering solutions, or to minimize it with training and modified work practices, then reliance on PPE such as gloves, protective footwear, safety glasses, hearing protection and respirators is needed.
It is up to managers, supervisors and parents to ensure that both new and experienced farm workers are trained in the proper use of PPE and that it is worn every time potential hazards are present. Wearing it should be an expectation of the job.
“Decisions about protecting your hearing, eyesight and skin can have lifelong impacts – good or bad,” she says. “Some exposures are cumulative. For example, each exposure to loud noise increases the risk of hearing loss, and nothing can reverse hearing loss once the damage is done. Other hazards are acute, causing damage immediately, such as chemical splashes to the eyes.”
Not only should farm workers be trained when to wear PPE, but they should also be shown how to achieve a proper fit. Respirators, hearing protection, safety goggles, or helmets will not work properly if they do not fit correctly.
When it comes to young farm workers, parents and supervisors play an important role in shaping attitudes about health and safety.
“Leading by example and wearing PPE yourself, will greatly influence the likelihood of youth doing the same,” she adds. “For example, when a child or youth sees someone they respect consistently wearing ear protection while mowing the lawn, they view that behavior as a necessary action to take when performing that task. This type of leadership helps build a positive culture of safety within the agriculture community that will hopefully continue for future generations.”
Consistently wearing PPE will help protect workers young and old from many health risks associated with working on the farm. Make it a habit and grab it!