Business & Policy
Safety is a farm business risk
By Bruce Barker
With a yearlong safety campaign launched during Canadian Agriculture Safety Week (CASW), Mar 11 to 17, the emphasis on farm safety includes assessment, improvement and further development of safety programs by partners in the program. The Canada FarmSafe Plan supports the theme Plan • Farm • Safety, a three-year focus for the Canadian agricultural safety campaign. Last year, the focus was on ‘Farm’ including implementation, documentation and training. In 2010, the campaign promoted ‘Plan’ featuring safety walkabouts and planning for safety.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and CASA delivers CASW in partnership with Farm Credit Canada (FCC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through Growing Forward, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative.
“The Canada FarmSafe Plan is an excellent tool to help Canadian farmers take the risk out of safety risk management,” says Marcel Hacault, CASA executive director. “It’s a living document that is readily adaptable for any type of farm operation in Canada.”
The Canada FarmSafe Plan was developed by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) to help producers manage farm safety business risk. The core Plan is available as a free download from CASA.
Using the concept of Return on Investment (ROI) to manage farm safety risk can help farm managers implement farm safety programs. Benefits and costs are compared, and a positive ROI means the investment in farm safety produced benefits or returns greater than the cost.
And the cost can be high. Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) has determined the average costs of workplace injuries are $275,000 for a fatality, $143,000 for a permanent disability, $10,000 for hospitalization and $700 for non-hospitalized injuries. An incident could also cause thousands of dollars of damage to machinery and property.
Cost is one of the four areas of farm safety risk management. The other three include prosecution, commodity loss and human resource loss. Prosecution is legal action that can occur at three levels – regulatory, civil and criminal. In the case of an incident, regulatory action refers to provincial occupational health and safety regulations that put the onus on the business owner- operator to prove all possible preventative measures were taken. The injured party could take civil action if it is believed that the employer failed to provide a safe work environment. Criminal liability sets out legal duties for workplace health and safety and can assign penalties for violations that result in injuries or death.
Commodity loss is the third business risk. Depending on the type of incident, this may include loss of livestock, crops or buildings, lost productivity and down time, and loss of optimal opportunity such as for planting or harvesting.
And finally, human resource loss is a significant risk to any agricultural business. In addition to the pain and suffering of the affected person, there can be a significant impact on the well-being of employees with added work pressures, finding and training a replacement worker, and administrative and possible legal paperwork related to the incident.
“Investing up front in safety training, equipment, repairs and anything related to keeping safe on the farm is always less expensive than recovering from injuries, illness or damage,” said FCC Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Rémi Lemoine during the launch of the Safety component during Farm Safety Week. “At FCC, we are committed to the future of the industry and we know that good farm safety practices make good business sense.”
Using costs in an ROI analysis can be subjective, as some costs cannot be measured financially but may include a human toll. Costs can be also be viewed in term of cost avoidance when you know what a likely result will be when doing, or not doing, a particular action.
In the end, managing farm business safety risk comes down to more than just dollars and cents. The ROI on preventing a human cost far outweighs financial losses due to lost revenue.