The continuing popularity of documentary television shows such as Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers shows that, like their American counterparts, Canadian television viewers are fascinated by stories of ordinary people who risk their lives to earn a living. There’s a certain glamour associated with these professions, particularly since we watch them from the safety and comfort of our homes.
But not all high risk jobs involve adventure on the high seas or frozen roads. You might be surprised to learn, for example, that garbage and recyclables collection is among the ten most dangerous jobs in Canada, with a higher rate of injuries than police officers or construction workers. Given the nature of the work, we probably shouldn’t expect to see TV series that follows these workers’ daily adventures (“Deadliest Trash” ?)..
Farming is another occupation that, while seemingly routine, consistently appears on the “most dangerous” list. According to the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA)’s Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) initiative, agricultural accidents result in an average of more than 100 deaths and 1,500 hospitalizations across Canada annually. On average, ten of those killed and 110 of those hospitalized are children under the age of ten.
Products from British Columbia farms make up more than C$2.5 billion of the C$110 billion agriculture contributes annually to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product.
Nearly all B.C. farms are family-owned and operated, and, contrary to popular belief, it is members of these families, rather than visitors, who incur most of the serious injuries. The risk of certain injuries will vary depending upon the particular farm’s products, but common hazards include:
- Animals – While not usually aggressive, the typical dairy cow weighs around 725 kg and can give a hard kick. An inattentive farm hand can wind up with a crushed foot or a sharp blow to the head. Other animals butt and bite, and many carry infectious diseases, such as salmonella and leptospirosis, which can be transmitted to humans.
- Chemicals – Even when applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions, insecticides, herbicides and even some chemical fertilizers can cause burns, respiratory problems or even poisoning
- Drowning and Suffocation – Being trapped in a silo is a common danger, as is falling into a water tank or a manure pit. The danger is particularly significant when young children are present
- Electrocution – Faulty wiring and switches, frayed extension cords and overhead wires are all potential dangers
- Machinery – Some of the most serious injuries, as well as many fatalities, involve the labor-saving machinery used nearly everywhere on a modem farm, including tractors, power take-off shafts and chainsaws.
Many family farmers resist implementing safety measures due to cost concerns, and most family farms break even or make a small profit. However, there are a number of low-cost actions that can go a long way toward improving the typical farm’s safety environment.
- On a regular basis, walk around the farm with an eye out for potential safety hazards. Make notes of these and follow through with repairs or other corrective actions.
- Require all workers – even temporary ones and family members – to be trained in first aid, CPR and farm safety. Free or low cost safety information and training are available through organizations such as Work Safe BC and AgSafe.
- If there are young children in the family, be sure they have a fenced play space close to the farmhouse and as far away from farm operations as possible
- Whenever possible, store machinery, chemicals and other hazardous items in a secure and locked location. Remove ignition keys for tractors and other machinery and keep them in a safe place out of the reach of children
- Require all workers to understand what safety equipment is required for particular jobs. Enforce the use of such equipment by reprimanding or, if necessary, dismissing anyone who consistently fails to use it
British Columbia Personal Injury Lawyers
The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling all types of claims for compensation. Learn more about how we can help by contacting our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or by visiting our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout British Columbia.