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Online tools help analyze farm hazards

The programs were developed in the U.S. with help from firefighters, who are usually first on the scene of an accident

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Glacier FarmMedia – Firefighters and first responders have joined with farmers in the United States to release a slate of new programs that can address hazards.

The online tools, which can also be accessed in Canada, include a checklist and a pre-plan map for emergency situations.

Why it matters: Agriculture is a dangerous occupation, so having more programs and tools available to help make farms safer can save lives and serious injuries.

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“There are a lot of safety programs and consultants for homes and businesses, but with farms, it’s been difficult to do,” said Kyle Koshalek, a research co-ordinator associate with the National Farm Medicine Center, following a safety workshop in Des Moines, Iowa.

“To address that, and being agriculture is one of the most dangerous professions, we wanted to make something that could make farms safer.”

The tools were developed in partnership with the National Farm Medicine Center, the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, Penn State University, and the Rural Firefighters Delivering Agricultural Safety and Health group.

Koshalek said including rural firefighters was key because, according to a survey, farmers consider them the second-most trusted after their neighbours and family.

“That told us we should do this,” he said. “We understand farmers can’t always do this themselves, so the fire department is usually the next best choice.”

One of the tools, which can be accessed at www.saferfarm.org, acts as an online safety checklist, letting producers view their property via satellite imagery and pinpoint buildings and machinery.

The tractor, for example, can be selected, allowing producers to see if the machine’s brakes are in good shape, if the access steps are secure and clean, and if the hydraulic hoses aren’t leaking.

“They can mark things as high priority so they know it needs to be addressed right away,” Koshalek said.

Farmers can score parts of the equipment and buildings on a scale of one to five. The totals are averaged, providing an overall score.

Producers can upload their own images of their machinery and buildings, comparing them to images provided on the site to see if they meet safety standards.

“Most people won’t have perfect scores right away, because not everything that potentially needs to be fixed is high priority,” he said. “But it at least allows them to identify some of those possible hazards, ensuring the serious ones get addressed.”

The second tool, which can be used at www.nfmcfarmmapper.com, lets producers map out their farms, pinpointing locations of buildings, hazards and livestock.

In an emergency situation, first responders can look at the map while driving to the farm, ensuring they know locations of livestock, machinery, buildings and hazards before they get there.

As well, the groups have offered classroom sessions to help train rural firefighters and farmers to use the tools. First-aid programs have also trained bystanders on how to address an emergency while waiting for first responders.

So far, more than 40 firefighters and EMTs have been trained to train others, Koshalek said, adding momentum continues to build.

“We really hope this grows nationwide,” he said.

This article originally appeared at the Western Producer.

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