Safety culture starts with management

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Agriculture is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States, and leads all other industries in work-related fatalities. A majority of agricultural accidents involve some type of machinery or equipment. On pork operations, most accidents occur during animal/human interaction.

Safety is a responsibility shared by every single employee since most injuries occur while doing routine chores. However, providing a healthy and safe workplace starts with a commitment by owners and managers.

Owners and managers are responsible for informing employees of existing hazards and training them to recognize and report other hazards. Making sure employees have the information, training, experience and supervision needed to do their job safely should be an objective on all operations, regardless of size.

There is an urgent need for more attention to safety. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pork industry is double the average on injuries and accidents,” says Jim Lummus, education program manager, National Pork Board. “Workers are getting hurt on the job which harms not only the person injured but costs time away from work, lost experience, lower production efficiency, plus, your insurance premiums will likely go up.”

Records on safety training sessions would be helpful if your operation becomes subject to scrutiny of safety officials. The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is to ensure the safety and health of workers on operations with 11 or more employees by setting and enforcing safety standards in the workplace. “They also provide safety training and work on the continuous improvement of operations,” says Lummus.

Even on operations with fewer than 11 employees, you should be familiar with OSHA standards. “If you’re sued by someone for allowing a dangerous situation to exist, you may still be measured by OSHA safety standards,” says Lummus.

Establishing a culture of safety on your farm will help attract new employees, help retain long-term employees and may help on reducing insurance rates. Lummus provides the following key objectives for an effective safety program:

•    Provide an environment that encourages safety awareness and compliance in all employees.

•    Minimize accidents, both human and material, by taking a proactive approach to safety, identifying present and future unsafe or hazardous conditions in every area of the operation.

•    Provide a uniform policy of safety management consistent with the requirements of OSHA and insurance carriers.

•    Define specific responsibilities for effective enforcement of all safety policies, procedures and programs.

•    Provide a means for development and updating of safety education and training.

•    Provide a means for the participation of all employees in an ongoing safety program.

Start developing your safety program now with NPB’s Pork Production Safety System workbook which provides recommendations on specific safety topics on working swine operations.

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