Farm safety initiative to reduce tractor rollovers

Eric Bowman has worked as a farmer around Enniskillen, Ont., for nearly 40 years, starting with dairy cattle and more recently as an organic beef farmer. He’s never had a serious accident on his farm, but he’s seen them happen.

“You get people that have been working all day and they just want to get the job done quickly by the end of the day,” Bowman said. “So they overload the front end loader with hay or something and the thing tips forward.”

Last week, was Agricultural Safety Week in Canada, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was out in force promoting its three-phase campaign of ‘Plan-Farm-Safety’ to farms throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada.

This year’s theme, ‘Farm,’ is what CFA Farm Safety Consultant Theresa Whalen calls an ‘actionable’ phase.

“We’re going to be creating plans and policies and actually … making things applicable to each individual farm,” she said.

According the Whalen, one of the leading causes of death in the farm industry is tractor rollovers. A document, released by the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program, indicates that one in five fatalities on farms is caused by a tractor rollover. Whalen says with an average of 115 fatalities per year in Canada, approximately 23 of those are caused by rollovers.

Whalen’s efforts try to make farmers aware of the risks and take the necessary precautions.

Bowman, who owns and co-operates the Bowmanview Farms with his wife Jennifer, feels that the CFA message is effective.

“You see more people with the enclosed cabs on their tractors, now, which I think is doing a lot (to save lives),” he said.

Despite having worked and lived on his family farm for his entire life, Bowman has never experienced a major injury.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m more safety conscious than others or not,” he said, “but I’ve always been very aware of the dangers on the farm.”

According to Whalen, the impact an injury has on a farm is tremendous.

“Sixty per cent of the farms operated in Canada are solely operated,” she said. “A long-term injury could lead to the sale of the farm if the owner doesn’t have the means to hire additional help.”

That’s why organizations such as the Canadian Farmers with Disabilities Registry exist to help in the event of a serious injury, Whalen said.

“They give emotional support and volunteer support to injured or disabled farmers,” she said. “In the event of a long term disability, they’ll even provide training to show farmers how they can continue to operate (with their disability).”