Published in Farm Safety Gazette
At the beginning of the pandemic not many of us could project we’d be approaching our third year of dealing with it. But here we are. To the credit of the farm community in Canada, emergency plans were modified to protect workers and we’re still standing.
Here are two questions that reoccur in the minds of safety conscious farmers: How do we continue to deal with COVID-19 effectively and what practices will we maintain to prepare for unforeseen pandemics that could come our way in the future?
The policies and processes that farmers have put in place relating to hygiene and sanitation early in the pandemic became more and more critical. These include hand washing stations, use of masks and more rigorous PPE which have also served to reduce colds and flus. As well, more stringent regular cleaning processes have decreased the contamination of products.
New best practices have also been incorporated to deal with instances where we might have to administer first aid or treatments and protect us from situations where we had to touch people who might be infectious.
Even our first aid kits have been transformed to include masks, gloves and bandages in greater quantity. Items like blankets that used to be recycled are now being disposed of.
Another area that has been transformed in ways that will be advantageous down the road relates to emergency management. Most operations now know exactly who is on site at all times – both workers and visitors. With the importance of contact tracing being recognized in the fight against the spread of COVID 19, future pandemics will be better combatted right from the get-go.
It is crucial that operations who invite customers to their properties maintain standards. Even though outdoor environments are way more prevalent on farms, there needs to be compliance to practices such as physical distancing where applicable.
Technology has become and will continue to be a valuable asset in the context of battling pandemics. The elimination of in-person meetings by incorporating vehicles like Zoom may decrease as COVID-19 no longer becomes a part of our lives. But we will continue to utilize these vehicles and be prepared to incorporate it at a higher level as a way to limit personal contact as soon as anything resembling a pandemic is on the horizon.
An area of health and safety that is being incorporated into plans that has really come to the forefront during the pandemic relates to mental health. With many people isolated from areas of support that have traditionally been a cornerstone of farming communities like service clubs, places of worship and other crucial points of interaction, mental health challenges have been on the rise.
This area is no longer being swept under the rug as it has in the past. There has been unprecedented focus on mental health and its de-stigmatization and it will get that much more attention should we be confronted by another pandemic in the future.
Our “How Does Safety Rate on Your Farm Checklist” is a helpful tool in constructing your emergency plan. Available as free download https://wsps.news/FarmChecklist
[Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS). All rights reserved]