Farm Hub Wins New York Farm Safety Award
NYS Agricultural Society and Agricultural Commissioner recognize safety initiatives
By Amy Wu
Bilingual safety trainings and an active safety committee comprised of all levels of personnel, are only a couple examples of the Hudson Valley Farm Hub’s initiatives to keep people out of harm’s way. Now, the Farm Hub’s efforts are being spotlighted.
On January 10 the Farm Hub was awarded the Farm Safety Award by the New York State Agricultural Society, which recognizes farm operators with successful farm safety programs. The award was presented at the Ag Society’s 187th Annual Meeting and Agricultural Forum in Syracuse, NY, one of the agriculture industry’s premiere gatherings. Pedersen Farms., Inc. of Ontario County was also a recipient of the Farm Safety Award, an annual award that is competitive and is based on an application process.
As part of the ceremony, the Farm Hub was honored by Elizabeth Claypoole, president of the NYS Agricultural Society, and Richard Ball, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Farm Hub Farm Manager Eddie Clevenger said safety is foremost on the farm. Safety is also closely connected with one of the Farm Hub’s biggest challenges: significant number of visitors and employees who are non-farm workers or have limited background in farming. Most farms also have considerable machinery and equipment that requires training for all production staff, he pointed out.
Danielle Fontaine, Farm and Food Safety Manager, describes the Farm Hub has a “beautiful quilt of variety” referring to diversity of the workforce, crops, and research. Moreover, “this quilt is held together by the farm’s safety culture: a thread of uniformity, continuity, strong and even tensile. Everyone who lives, works, and visits our farm is guided in our safety policies, taught to move and work safely together and encouraged to take care of themselves and each other.”
In 2017, the Farm Hub stepped up its safety programming by hiring Fontaine as the Farm and Food Safety Manager.
Policies are woven into the work week, including at daily crew meetings. Safety trainings are inclusive; at the 2018 season-opening training, staff were organized into workgroups with representatives from different job types, including production staff, office workers and management, both Spanish and English speakers. Groups were assigned an emergency scenario and played out the scenario using the safety policies.
“Through this exercise, we were able to see where more training was needed and which protocols needed further development to work in our bilingual culture,” said Clevenger. “By working together through these exercises, we strengthened our communication skills and were able to overcome some anxieties regarding language.”
The Farm Hub was also recognized for:
–Providing safety protocols, training materials, and policies in Spanish and English;
–Developing a health and safety plan and emergency action plan by working with New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAHM), which specializes in working with farms on safety training. “NYCAMH is an amazing resource that we use to provide bilingual trainings as well as for respirator fit tests and safety inspections,” says Fontaine.
–Installing first aid kits in every building and farm vehicle plus adding two bilingual AEDs to the farm’s rescue equipment;
–Staff-wide training on Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) rights and staff reporting protocols which led to an uptick in incident and near-miss reporting, an issue on farms;
–Keeping up with safety regulations per rules from OSHA, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Transport (DOT);
–Finally, including all staff when determining best practices for safety challenges during public farm tours and events.
Anne Meyerhoff, training specialist at NYCAMH, lauded the Farm Hub’s win highlighting activities such as the regular safety refresher courses.
“Eddie and Danielle are extremely enthusiastic about what they do, and are committed to strengthening the farm’s safety culture and making employee well-being a priority at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub,” Meyerhoff said in a statement. “Everyone is trained on emergency procedures, and hands-on training components cover specific equipment and scenarios. The creation of protocols and written policies furthers the goal of setting clear expectations and keeping everyone safe and healthy.”
In the pipeline is a “train-the-trainer program” to streamline tractor training procedures. Production staff is also being provided safety training on newly installed grain bins and every time there is a new piece of equipment to be in compliance with OSHA mandates.
The Farm Hub is also facilitating first responder training to instruct Fire and Emergency Medical Services on rescue techniques for farm-specific incidents such as grain entrapments and tractor turnovers.
FARM SAFETY: A TABOO TOPIC?
The Farm Safety Award sheds light on a topic that isn’t readily discussed in the agriculture industry in part because of the growing pressures of running farms and changes in the workforce, says Dick Peterson, the NYS Agriculture Society’s Farm Safety Chair and a NYCAMH advisory board member.
“Safety is something that for the majority of farms is not generally discussed, and one of the reasons is we are all the same this way and think ‘bad things happen to other people,’ and that’s an attitude that prevails,” he says. “Farm operators often have so many things to worry about every day. They’re so busy and stressed and (sometimes) shortcuts get taken.”
Farming ranked 8 out of 10 for civilian occupations with high fatality rates in 2017, according to the latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For farmers and ranchers, 24 out of every 100,000 full-time equivalent workers died of a workplace injury in 2017.
Peterson forecasts farm safety will become a more critical issue as the workforce diversifies and the modern-day farm incorporates new technologies and
“There are fewer workers but they are accomplishing much more because the technology has grown. Whereas in years gone by, a farm might spend a week harvesting a few hundred acres of crops, today they can do that in a day,” he says.
Production staff has also shifted from generations of families to outsourcing of work. The national trend of consolidation continues in many parts of the United States as the number of farms decrease but existing farms expand.
“Farms are getting bigger. We have fewer farms but they are much larger and that makes safety a more critical issue for them to deal with,” Peterson says.
For more information on farm safety. go to:
Featured Image Top: From left to right: Richard A. Ball, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets; Anna Meyerhoff, Senior Bilingual Agricultural Safety & Education Coordinator, New York Center for Agricultural Medicine & Health (NYCAMH), Richard Peterson, Northeast Agriculture Technology Corporation, Farm Safety Award Committee Chair; Danielle Fontaine, Farm and Food Safety Manager, Hudson Valley Farm Hub; Elizabeth Claypoole, New York State Agriculture Society President.
Photo Credit: JMS Studio & Gallery.