By Tim Kalinowski
Recent tragedies and farm accidents involving youth in Alberta highlight the need for continued farm safety education and better collaboration with young people involved in the agriculture industry, says Agriculture for Life CEO Luree Williamson.
“I think what is needed is continual exposure to safety education,” says Williamson. “It’s always important to have reminders of safe practices on the farm. I think sometimes we might take it for granted that someone understands what a hazard is, and we have to continue to make safety part of your farming process and review it on a constant basis.
“From a lifestyle perspective farming is absolutely fabulous, and it’s a great place to grow up and raise children. But on the same token, it is hazardous, it is a work environment, and we need to work as an industry to reinforce safe message and remind people we can’t take it for granted.”
Williamson says Ag. For Life has been trying to drive home that farm safety message for years, and she does feel there is more awareness that way on today’s farms, despite these recent tragedies.
“I think we are making progress,” she states. “Most farms are safe, and most do have safety procedures in place. But we can get complacent, get busy and get fatigued, and we need to take all that into consideration and find the right balance. We can say, I need to get things done, but also I need to say when I’m tired and I need to take a break.
“There is nothing more important than your life and those of your family members and loved ones. Safety, and the actions around keeping everyone safe, is number one.”
Williamson says good safety messaging that is youth specific might be one way to increase that awareness component even more. For that reason, Ag. For Life launched it Rural Safety Unit earlier this year, and is going to address youth safety on the farm even more broadly once the organization chooses its new Agriculture Youth Council members in September, says Williamson.
“It’s vital we continue to share rural and farm safety messaging,” Williamson explains.
“We are looking for youth to join us on a council ages 16-21. It gives us an opportunity to work with youth whether they are coming from an urban or rural background, and help with some of our program development and testing.
“We’re looking for a mix. We are looking for students who have and ag. background, but we are also, equally importantly, looking for students who don’t have an agricultural background so they can have input into the design of our programs.
“It’s important for our purposes to have both that urban and rural (component).”
Applications to become a Youth Council member to Ag. For Life are due Monday, September 17. Interested Youth can visit agricultureforlife.ca/agyouthcouncil for more information and to apply.
“For those of us who work in the agriculture industry, we often use words to describe things we assume people understand, but when we get that input from our youth it will help us with our messaging,” says Williamson.
“We will be able to use language that the students will understand. I think it is a great bridge to connect— to get their input and to make sure our programs are relevant.”