Safety Training

Terry Beck 
Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, The Ohio State University Extension 
Wayne County

What do you tell your new employees about safety? The old timers I have talked to say that their safety training was, There is the shovel, there is the pile, now get busy Not much of an orientation on farm safety!

By now everyone has heard that agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations. So, why would a farm business skip a safety orientation for someone new on the job? Would a good reason be no time to do it? How about, I was smart enough to still have all my fingers so you should be too! Obviously, it may be hard to find a valid reason to ignore safety training for farm employees.

Everyone has a close call safety story; here is mine. I was 14. The family had been baling hay all day. It was 5 p.m. and it was time to quit, if for no other reason than everyone was hungry. I went with my uncle to get the last load of hay in the field. The wagon that we were loading was a metal floor wagon that had a floating metal bed with a great ability to tip. I do not know if it was made that way or not, but I remember the day we got rid of it and there were no tears shed! Anyway, I helped hitch the wagon to the tractor and climbed up on top of the hay for the ride home. After all, riding on a Farmall 300 as the second person is dangerous! The field had steep hills and as we crossed the hillside the wagon tilted and sliding off came the hay about two tiers at a time and I rode it down to the ground. Wheee! I did not even have time to think about jumping it happened so fast! I have a vivid picture to this day of my uncle's face as he watched the hay and me go towards the ground! I think the tilt bed wagon saved the tractor from being tipped. It never crossed my mind as a 14 year old that the wagon would tip. After all, my uncle had enough skill and had been working in that field for years and nothing had ever happened! After he saw that I was okay his next thought was probably how do we get this all reloaded without anyone seeing it!

Cute story, but what is the point? The point is this: do farms give their family members employee safety orientations? I am going to let that topic go, but do not forget the family when it comes to safety.

Incorporating safety into the first day training tells an employee that he or she is important to the operation and you do not want them to hurt themselves. If a new employee is just part-time this adds more complexity on just how much training is needed.

We need to be honest and remember that most employees on their first day are concerned about when they will get paid, where is the break room and where do they fit in. That does not lend itself to meaningful safety training.

More safety training is retained when it is done in small doses. Yes, the first day should include the general/specific job rules and reasons for the rules. One might have to tell employees that they are not trained to do certain things and cannot do the work until fully trained. Employees should be told to report near misses, potential hazards and accidents. Above all, be sure the message comes across to the employee that safety is serious business and that all accidents are preventable.

A trusted veteran employee is also a good trainer to help the employee learn the job for the first couple of days. He should be someone the employee can ask questions to and ensure that the new employee can work safely. 
After the first couple of days you will need to touch base with the new employee. Is the employee following the rules and instructions that are given? If it is a simple misunderstanding, retraining is necessary. If not, a heart to heart talk is needed. A farm business does not need the heartache of the accident that a careless employee can cause. Weed out the non-compliant, non-motivated employees early! We all have heard the saying about someone owning the farm. Just be sure it does not become a reality!

After a couple of days a refresher is in order. You or a trusted employee can ask some simple questions to see if the new hire retained the information provided the first day. Ask them questions that pertain to their job. Where is smoking permitted, what should they do if they saw someone unconscious in a silo, a machine guard off and the like. When they get their first paycheck is a good time to review safety. It may not hurt to link the concept of safety with money.

Further training will depend upon how long the employee is hired for and what their specific job(s) will be.

I wish I could give a long list of safety training rules but everyone needs to make up their own depending on the situation. On a farm there are many areas to be aware of safety, fire extinguisher use, working around large equipment, large animals, chemicals, shop work, and so on.

Do not skip some form of safety training and bet the farm that nothing will happen!