Agriculture is a major industry in the Okanagan with tens of thousands of acres in orchards, vineyards and farms spreading across all corners of the valley.
Young, inexperienced workers as well as those with vast amounts of experience become the victims in agricultural incidents. One of the highest risk categories are experienced farmers over the age of 60.
Working safely must be taught and is a continual practice. For example, vineyard rows are getting narrower as equipment gets smaller. This allows farmers to maximize the use of their land, but at the cost of the stability of their machinery - a narrower wheelbase can mean a more wobbly tractor.
In light of several injuries and accidents involving agricultural tools in the Okanagan over the past couple of months, Carol Reid from the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association provided some key points of safety to keep in mind while operating machinery.
Some important safety points for all tractor operators are:
• Conduct a pre-work inspection
• Use a Roll Over Protective System and seat belt
• Conduct a thorough risk assessment for the tractor or tool and the task at hand
• Keep loads low when travelling
• Always keep an eye out for pedestrians - do not move tractor without eye to eye contact with pedestrian.
• No extra riders on tractor, bucket, or forks
• Follow recommended hitching procedures and limits
• Turn on level ground whenever possible
• Stay away from soft shoulders
• Ensure brakes are in good condition and properly locked for high speeds
• Use a 'Slow Moving Vehicle' sign for roads
• Ensure loads are properly secured.
• Disengage the power take off device, turn off tractor and set brake before leaving tractor seat
Employers are also reminded they must provide the appropriate and current training to anyone who will be operating heavy machinery on their farm. The training must be documented and employees must be supervised to ensure safe practices are followed.