Farm Safety – Workplace Activity Factors
The nature of farming generates a number of areas of workplace activities that can be inherently more risky than similar activities undertaken in an office or factory environment.
The length of hours that someone works on a farm is normally considerably more than those generated by someone working elsewhere. The nature of the work means that it has to be undertaken with a speed and intensity that is spread over many hours. It is not uncommon for people working on a farm to spend between 60 and 80 hours a week working. If someone is a farm owner as well, they will see this not so much as work but as an investment in their family life as well.
On a farm, there is not the traditional split between management and labor that there normally is in a company. This means that often there is no clear management focus on issues affecting health and safety, and there is more of a tendency to blur lines which can result in an increased risk factor, which needs to be managed by all the operatives.
Pace and routine of work
With most jobs, there is some degree of stability in terms of some type of routine and steady pace of work, although this can often be punctuated by extremely busy periods. Farm work is quite different in that there is very often no type of routine at all, and the pace can vary from being very slow to very fast.
The routine on a farm will vary, depending upon the season, the work that needs doing, the weather and how many staff are 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 year, often only once or twice a year.
This means that people who work on a farm full-time do not build up the ongoing different levels of experience that they need, and would normally get in other types of job.
Both of these things, the pace and routine of work, can generate a degree of uncertainty and instability, which is manageable from a work point of view, but which by its very nature makes the work more hazardous, and increases the risk that of injury and harm to individuals.
Farming does not really have any formal training as such, most of the learning is done on the job. This was true for many industries up until very recently, but for many of them this has changed considerably in recent times, and training is now seen as something that needs to be delivered formally, aside from the day-to-day nature of the job.
This means that formal training around areas such as safety, fire prevention, manual handling and the like is taught in a classroom type setting, and is normally backed up by a raft of policies and procedures.
Farming does not do this. There may be people who work in the farming industry who have college degrees in different aspects of agriculture and horticulture, but aside from that there will be little formal training. This means there is little structural context for health and safety and risk management, and it is left to individual farms and farm owners to make sure best workplace practice happens.
Technology is rapidly changing the way farming happens, from the advent of driverless tractors, to the use of drones, to specific weather forecasting to all types of robotic feeding of animals. This use of technology brings with it additional risks, both in terms of the use of the technology itself, and the law of unforeseen consequences.Whilst many people embrace technology, and it can undoubtedly make a huge difference to the nature of farming, there is also a need for it to be managed in a businesslike context, a proper risk assessment done of its benefits and risks, and how its misuse could be seriously damaging.
It is really important in all types of technology, as with a lot of farm and agricultural machinery, that the people using it are of an age appropriate skill level, and where possible, they receive formal training, possibly online, to make sure they use it in a safe and appropriate manner.