Ask the Expert: COVID Takeaways worth Keeping
Dean Anderson, WSPS Strategic Advisor Agriculture
WSPS Strategic Advisor Dean Anderson believes there is much to be learned from our experiences dealing with COVID.
"The pandemic has taught us that if you put rules in place, people will follow them much more than you may realize," says Anderson. "For many of us, this includes raising the bar on our expectations for visitors to our farms as well as what we expect from young people."
Extra precautions that have been put into place for visitors, such as delivery people and trades come to mind.
"Circumstances surrounding COVID have seen farmers seeking out ways to make their operations more COVID safe," reflects Anderson. "Some of these will certainly find their way into future farm safety plans including the use of signage."
Driveway Go Slowly Signage
One example is signage that has been installed on driveways to caution drivers to go slowly due to the fact that children were not in school during COVID. Sadly, there is a long history of children, and others categorized as non-essential, being struck by vehicles visiting farms that predates COVID and the warning signs have been a good addition.
Other signs require that visitors report to the office before proceeding anywhere on the farm. Visitors to some locations would take it upon themselves to find their ways to the locations they assumed their presence was expected. A plumber might seek out a pump in a milk house not knowing that work was being done on the way to the area with machinery that was inherently hazardous.
"Approaches to something as simple as dropping off lunch for a spouse have changed," says Anderson. "Previously, they might have gone directly to their spouse in a barn, navigating their way by conveyers, fans, feeding systems and other hazards. Now they know to drop it off at the office."
The hierarchy of controls also comes to mind. Limiting interaction is one way of eliminating a hazard. Conversations with a trade relating to quoting on a job does not have to be done in person. During COVID we've become used to non-face to face interactions, often with documents shared on a computer screen. There's no reason why this approach cannot be part of best practices moving forward.
Keeping Young People Safe
Stricter rules for young people have been implemented as well. As we've gone from full lockdown to greater interaction, we need to remain vigilant in keeping young people on farms safe from harm. This includes young visitors. If your child is finishing a chore, their friend needs to wait in a safe zone until they’re done.
"With things getting back to normal, it's a good time to do an audit of your farm's safety," recommends Anderson. "The WSPS How Does Safety Rate on Your Farm Checklist is a very detailed guide to evaluate exactly how safe your farm is and to pinpoint things you can fix, change or replace to make them safer."
With sections on machinery, electrical, fire, structures, tractors, chemicals and pesticides to name a few, the checklist is available in an easy to download PDF format at: https://wsps.news/3DqCfJk