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Effective reminder can help prevent injuries during harvest
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Effective reminder can help prevent injuries during harvest

Imperial Oil, a long-standing Canadian petroleum company, and Workplace Safety & Prevention Services of Canada developed a simple, yet effective three-word reminder to practice safety – “Stop, Think, Act.”

Shown as a traffic light where red stands for “Stop,” yellow stands for “Think,” and green stands for “Act” – individuals who use this reminder can make smart decisions that prevent injury.

The Canadian groups offered their safety slogan to U.S. farm safety groups including the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center, said Dr. John Bender, DVM, MS, DACVPM, and director of UMASH. Dr. Bender is also a professor and hospital epidemiologist. He has 20 years of post-graduate experience, has directed research pertaining to infectious and zoonotic disease, and has worked extensively in public health.

Given all these credentials, his goal – and that of UMASH – is to help citizens stay healthy and thrive.

He believes in this reminder that Imperial Oil offered to share with farmers here:

• Stop long enough to think about what you are about to do.

• Think about how you’re going to do it. Is it the safest way? If not, how can you do it better?

• Act in the safest way possible.

UMASH has developed materials to adapt “Stop, Think, Act” to all aspects of farming and ranching. It is a tool to encourage farmers to take a minute to stop and think before acting on a task or job.

Bender encourages farmers and farm families to use this reminder to break down farm safety concerns into manageable pieces.

“Especially with conditions this year, it’s probably a little earlier than normal,” Bender said. “The idea is to stop and think about what you are doing, and then think about how you’re going to do it in the safest way. Then do it in the safest way.”

The UMASH farm safety team put together a poster/checklist to complete safety checks on the farm. Here’s the link to that checklist: http://umash.umn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Farm-Safety-Checklist-Stop-Think-Act.pdf.

“This is a great reminder at harvest time,” he said. “We’re working with big machinery. We might be doing sugarbeets and on the road, and worried about road safety issues. There are a number of things farmers need to reflect on – ‘It’s been a year since I’ve done this, so I need to stop and what I need to do, and think about the approach, and make sure I act appropriately, so that I stay safe, and the people around me stay safe, too.’”

Pandemic, mental health, agrotourism

For at least 19 months, COVID-19 has affected and changed people’s lives, mental health, and resiliency.

Supporting ourselves and one another through simple reminders goes a long way toward safety, Bender said.

“Stop, Think, and Act is an example where we’re trying to take those simple monikers – reminders – to think about before we do something,” he said. “Let’s stop. Let’s Think. Let’s Act appropriately for safety.”

Bender asks the farm community to continue to think about COVID and COVID-preparedness. Generally, people during harvest are outdoors and might think they are safe from catching COVID, but there are situations where people are gathered shoulder to shoulder. That includes “a ride-along” in the combine or tractor, harvest dinners, or coffee at the elevator.

Keeping a box of masks in each cab is a wise addition to the harvest supplies. In addition to COVID, dust, allergies, and other health concerns are reasons to use an appropriate mask. Getting a COVID vaccine is also important whenever possible.

Road safety needs to always be emphasized during harvest, too, he said. Taking time to teach young drivers or less experienced drivers how to stay back from semi- or tandem trucks, or to recognize combines at night, is very important.

Another area for farmers to attend to is agrotourism. Oftentimes families may be distracted when they’re driving to pumpkin patches or other harvest-time farm activities. Farmers will need to watch out for distracted drivers that aren’t usually on remote roads.

“It might be city people who have never been on a farm or understand animals or machinery, and some of the risks that go with it,” he said. “Because agriculture is so diverse, it could be sugarbeet harvest, or a pumpkin patch, apple orchard that might have a petting zoo.”

No matter the harvest situation, taking naps plus getting extended hours of sleeping, drinking water, eating nutritious fruits and vegetables, and moving around are always important during harvest. Farmers push themselves very hard during harvest and work long hours. When farmers are inexperienced and/or fatigued, that’s when mistakes happen.

“Be sure you are taking breaks, recognizing when you do become fatigued that you do need to let someone else drive the tractor – or change jobs,” Bender said.

When someone finds themselves feeling drowsy or unsure of the way ahead this harvest, Minnesota’s UMASH director, veterinarian, and public health practitioner Dr. Bender recommends farmers repeat three words to themselves.

Stop. Think. Act.

Minnesota Farm Guide Weekly Update

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