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Safety in the Workplace

Safety in the Workplace

A comprehensive farm safety program is well worth the time investment. Focus on prevention. Either as a worker or as a manager you need to be aware of physical hazards, know how to assess risks, share knowledge about safe practices, and minimize dangers so that your farm will be a safe place for workers and visitors.

Besides the many acute physical hazards of farming, workplace safety also includes ergonomics and issues of repetitive strain, how people are treated, how people feel about one another and the work, and how conflicts are resolved. Respectful treatment and healthy communication are important, because workers who feel intimidated by their supervisors may feel pressured to take undue risks and endure unsafe conditions.

Safety also dovetails with workers’ rights: Federal law guarantees workers the right to a workplace free from danger, and employers, supervisors, and co-workers must ensure appropriate protections and mitigations for hazards. The law also provides important rights around clean drinking water; access to water, food, and rest; clean and safe housing; and more. Knowing these laws can help workers advocate for themselves and their co-workers in unsafe working conditions. These limited legal protections are important and also insufficient: enforcement is lax, penalties are minimal, and governmental interventions after an accident are unlikely to undo the harm done. Of course, if you’re reading this toolkit you’re probably already convinced that safety and care for workers is a higher priority than minimum legal compliance.

Note that AJP standards also require that businesses establish on-going practices of anticipating and responding to safety concerns, as part of the workplace safety program (Standards 3.5.7, 4.5.7):

The Employer will establish a Health and Safety Committee. Meetings shall be conducted in English and Spanish (or other appropriate language), so as to allow active participation by all employees. On small-scale farms the Employer may choose instead to discuss health and safety issues during general meetings with all employees, so long as such meetings take place regularly.