Safety is the top priority when Grandpa and grandson are working on projects on the farm and at home.

Farm Safety is an integral part of our family farm life. As my husband Bruce is self-employed, we cannot afford to lose his work hours due to illness, injury or the loss of his life due to a farm workplace incident. His death would be devastating for our farm family.

Our relatives and neighbouring farmers and ranchers have safety meetings before they start a task—they don’t necessarily call it as such! One example of this is rounding up cattle. The men and women gather to discuss where each person or pair will start herding and in what direction to guide the cattle. They call it ‘planning’, I call it safety!

Safety has come to the forefront on our family farm since the death of our youngest son Blaine in a fatal highway workplace incident in July 2012. Safety issues have been shared by those who have had their own farm workplace incidents. More thought now goes into how tasks are completed on our farm and the farms of friends, relatives and neighbours. Jobs which had been taken for granted are now more carefully thought out.

Working at heights is now seen as a hazard which should be taken seriously. Scaffolds have been rented instead of standing in tractor buckets or placing ladders in truck beds when working at heights. A farmer we know shared his story of taking a rock out of his combine header. He turned the header off and wrangled the rock out of the auger. Unfortunately, the auger rotated and as the farmer was leaning against the pick-up knife he was cut. He had not shut the combine motor off. Luckily for him, he was not seriously injured and could continue harvesting. A lesson learned and shared with others.

My husband has also shared his farming incident with others. While baling in the wee hours of the morning, he stepped out of his ‘old’ tractor to see if the baler end-gate had closed completely after a bale had been ejected. This tractor was hard to get out of park, so he left it in gear as he usually did when on level ground. As Bruce placed his leg behind the wheel of the baler, the tractor rolled back pinning Bruce’s leg underneath the wheel of the baler. ALL tractors are now put into parking gear when stopped. A lesson unfortunately well learned.

Our farm equipment undergoes routine maintenance by Bruce if he is able or by the dealership when more technical expertise is needed. Well cared for machinery help to ensure a well cared for farmer.

I’ll never forget the ‘yelp’ of excitement from our bulk gas and diesel delivery man when he arrived to see Bruce’s updated stand for our above ground tanks. A day’s work on Bruce’s part ensured the safety of both men while they go about their work routines on our farm.

Safety equipment is worn on our farm. Bruce wears safety glasses where needed to protect his eyesight—there aren’t many jobs on the farm that can be easily done without sight. Our grandson, Hayden, greatly enjoyed his February School Vacation with us on the farm. Grandpa and Hayden, with a little help from Grandma, dismantled an old audio-visual receiver. Hayden wasn’t allowed to use a hammer or wire cutters. He was disappointed as he had to use screwdrivers and pliers. Glasses were worn and safety precautions were taken.

Bruce placed reflective markers around a curve on our farm lead-in and the road over our dry creek bed this winter. Blowing and drifting snow can obliterate the road. These reflective markers make winter driving easier and safer. I don’t want to land in the ditch or drive off the road.

Bruce is not a fan of cell phones. One can usually find his sitting in a dresser drawer. It is now taken with him during haying season or when he is fixing fences. Both jobs he does by himself. He also takes it with when he goes to help others with their cattle tasks—even if it’s only to tell me when he’s on his way home.

Farm Safety is being ingrained in our grandchildren as it was with their parents and their uncle. They are not being raised on a farm and are not inherently aware of possible dangers. Hayden and Haylee have been told they’re not allowed to play in or on equipment and trucks; nor are they allowed in outbuildings by themselves. Our dams and dugouts are off limits unless supervised by an adult. Their safety is of the utmost importance. Grandpa, Grandma or a parent manages to find the time to take them for walks to find the first crocuses of the year, aquatic reptiles and insects. Watching ducks and ducklings is a great way to spend time with grandchildren!

Keeping our farm family safe is the most important thing for me. I don’t want to plan another funeral for a loved one due to an incident that could be avoided. Before Bruce does a task on the farm, he now asks himself, “ Is this the safest way of doing this?” Only by impressing the importance of safety will we keep our family farm alive.

Wendy-Ellen Nittel

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