As a past president of our Norfolk Farm Safety Association, I can vividly recall a presentation by a farmer by the name of Ken Kelly. He talked about how prices were bad back in the 1970s, and the stress of having to lay off his hired man. He was working twice as long; working at night; working in the rain, working in the mud – then, he got his arm caught in a Power Take-Off.
“You think you have problems with your farm and with farm labour and dealing with prices and dealing with stress,” he explained to us, “Once that happens to you, all those problems disappear. You have just got one problem: you’ve lost your arm and you’re dealing with that.”
The Power Take-Off (PTO) shaft is one of the oldest and most persistent hazards associated with farm machinery. All it may take for a person to become entangled in an open PTO shaft is one single thread, string from a hooded parka or strand of loose hair. As the items begin to wrap extremely fast around the PTO shaft, they pull the victim directly into the unit.
There are many kinds of agricultural machinery – mowers, tractors, shredders, harvesters, grinders, blowers, augers, balers – but they all have similar characteristics and similar hazards. Machines can have cutting blades, gears, chains, revolving shafts, rotating blades, levers and similar hazards. You can be cut, crushed, pulled in or struck by an object thrown by these machines. A farmer can even be injured if they simply fall while working on or near any of these machines.
The fact farm machinery uses tremendous power to do work makes its operation a potential hazard for both the operator and bystanders. In many accidents, the operator forgot something, took a shortcut, ignored a warning, wasn’t paying close attention or failed to follow safety rules.
Every year, and it doesn’t seem to change, we hear of the tractor rollovers, entrapment in flowing grain, death from silo gas or manure gas, and PTO accidents.
One of the real dangers for many is that the farm is also the home, so not only are people working on the farm in danger, but also other family members – in particular, children. Last year was no exception to the sad trend of child deaths. This is tragedy beyond words, and we must do whatever possible to deal with it. Approximately 20 per cent of Ontario farm fatalities involve children under 15, many of which were not working.
The Canadian Farm Safety Association has begun a three-year campaign with the theme “Be an AgSafe Family. “Keeping Kids Safe” is this year’s theme. It focuses on encouraging children and young adults to remember to stay safe while helping out with chores or responsibilities on the farm. In subsequent years, the theme will be adult safety and seniors on the farm.
On average, Canada mourns the loss of over 100 adults and children due to farm fatalities each year. While most farmers think safety is important, many continue to take dangerous shortcuts to get the job done.
The reality is most of these accidents are preventable. It’s the responsibility of all of us – individuals, organizations and communities – to make Ontario farms safe places to live, work and raise a family.