Training & On-going Reviews #
New staff members should be trained before they are exposed to any potential hazard. Involve veteran employees in the training of newer employees. Establish avenues for employee feedback and participation in guiding safety on the farm, through regular discussions and reviews or a safety committee that convenes regularly and receives feedback and concerns from the wider crew. Use an audit checklist. Give special attention to safety of children on the farm. Ensure any work by older children is supervised.
Safety training can range from informal on-the-go instruction and demonstration to more formal meetings/presentations, depending on your preference and the size of your operation. Trainings may be self-guided using reading materials, computer presentations, or video recordings. Trainings can be reinforced by posting signs in key locations to remind employees, for example, to use hearing protection, to beware of low headroom or a slippery floor surface, etc. However you do your training, make sure that everyone gets the training they need, and make sure everyone can access and understand your training: if you have employees whose first language is not English, you must provide training in their language of comfort.
Safety Training Checklist #
Safety training should address all relevant topics from the following checklist. Following each topic are common examples of measures to be taken. For help identifying hazards, establishing your safety policies, and planning your trainings, see AJP’s step-by-step guidance & template below. For training modules you can use with your crew, see additional resources and links.
Accountability: have some system for insuring that staff members know each other’s whereabouts, and that individuals working at remote locations can be checked on periodically; consider a buddy system and/or establish a means for communicating if appropriate.
Chemical safety: train employees to handle commercial products safely; institute practices for avoiding exposure to generated gases such as carbon monoxide, silo gas, sewer gas, and to powders, etc.
Confined spaces (tanks, silos, wells, pits, etc.): identify potentially hazardous confined spaces; anticipate hazards such as low oxygen; restrict entry and/or develop safe entry procedures
Construction, building and equipment maintenance activity: provide fall protective devices; utilize scaffolds; insure safe excavations: prevent trenching cave-ins, and avoid disturbing buried utilities; maintain welding equipment, limit welding to trained employees, insure adequate ventilation during welding
Domestic animals: train employees to handle livestock safely; identify and develop practices for avoiding exposure to zoonotic diseases
Ergonomics: prevent lifting injuries: avoid repetitive motions and awkward postures; use lifting and material handling devices to avoid lifting and other musculoskeletal injuries; utilize ergonomically-designed hand tools where feasible
Electrical safety: restrict electrical maintenance work to qualified employees, and provide them with protective equipment; observe electrical lockout/tagout procedures; insure that facility electrical installations are code-compliant
Fire prevention and safety: store flammable/combustible materials safely; promptly dispose of flammable/combustible wastes; provide fire extinguishers maintain clear exits and passage for fire emergencies; prohibit smoking: post fire exit routes; hold periodic evacuation drills.
First Aid: ensure that prompt municipal emergency medical services are available, or have staff members trained in first aid/CPR; provide and maintain a first aid kit; post emergency phone numbers.
Machine and tool safety: safely maintain power tools and hand tools; provide/maintain guards; train employees; observe “lockout/tagout” procedures for heavy machinery maintenance.
Material handling and storage: avoid precarious material handling and storage practices to avoid collapses, contusions, fire propagation, etc.
Mental health & wellness: build a collaborative, respectful, appreciative, and caring team through community agreements; pay attention to how people are feeling and offer support and appreciation proactively and as needed; provide clear work roles and responsibilities, and offer accommodations in times of high stress and high workload, for example by reducing work hours on some days after other work days run long; hire extra help if the work load is too heavy, or find ways to reduce the work load; accept less than perfection; work to resolve conflicts promptly; encourage and support each other towards healthy ways of managing stress, such as recreation, social time, and rest; help employees who are having an acute hard time find help, respecting their privacy and autonomy and striving to match any support you offer to their wishes; offer small wellness perks in stressful times, such as arrangements with a chiropractor or massage therapist.
Motor vehicles and heavy equipment: provide safe operation training for use of tractors, forklifts, cars, harvesters, trucks etc., and restrict vehicle use; keep vehicles in good condition; insure installation of safety devices such as ROPS and PTO shields; restrict riding on the back.
Noise: provide and require use of ear muffs/plugs for noisy activities; maintain equipment to minimize noise; reduce noise using barriers, absorbent material, enclosures, etc., where possible. Select equipmemt with lower sound output where possible.
Personal protective equipment: evaluate your workplace and provide appropriate safety glasses, gloves (thermal, sanitary), face shields, cold/wet weather garments, dust masks, welding helmets, welding gloves, knee pads, sun glasses, etc.
Prevent slips, trips, and falls: keep aisles, doorways, and stairways clear and free of obstructive/slippery materials, post warning signs where necessary/useful.
Respiratory diseases agents: identify and control exposure to respiratory disease agents such as particulate and dusts, molds, animal dander, other allergens.
Sanitation: provide adequate hand-washing, toilet, shower facilities; schedule regular cleaning; insure adequate soap, towels, etc.; train employees to observe universal precautions for avoiding exposure to blood-borne pathogens and other diseases; insure that potable water is provided.
Sexual harassment: discuss your workplace sexual harassment policy, set high expectations for respectful behavior, and make sure people know how to make a complaint and seek help.
Stairways and ladders: keep stairways clear; insure stairways are code-compliant, with adequate railings, landings, etc.; maintain ladders in good condition; train employees in safe ladder use.
Water safety: identify non-swimmers, provide rescue equipment near ponds, waterways; institute ice-safety steps; restrict access where appropriate
Weather-related hazards: avoid cold and heat stress or excessive UV exposure from the sun, by wearing appropriate clothing and glasses, providing sunscreen, providing adequate breaks and hot/cold fluids
Wildlife: animals, insects, plants: develop precautionary procedures, evaluate employees for allergies, provide immunizations, provide PPP, repellents, topical or other treatments, develop emergency plans
Workplace violence: anticipate possible incidents of workplace violence in your workplace (irate/disturbed customer, employee, employee spouse, etc.), and pre-plan accordingly.
Required pesticide/chemical safety training #
By law, farmworkers must receive training from their employer in the EPA Worker Protection Standard if the farm uses any chemicals whose labels say they’re covered by the WPS. See full requirements of employers at the EPA website. Compliance requires an annual pesticide safety training, clear and prompt communication about pesticide applications, and provision of all PPE required by a product’s label. Each worker must be trained before any potential chemical exposure. Trainings are offered by state extension offices, worker centers, and others.
Required food safety training #
The federal Food Safety Modernization Act requires at least one supervisor on each produce farm to complete approved food safety training and administer training and food safety planning on the farm. You may take trainings from the Produce Safety Alliance or the national GAPS program. Trainings are usually 15-20 hours.
If you have farm fields with limited access to clean water for drinking and washing, consider using portable coolers and handwashing kits (see Igloo and SolGear). These are generally kits that include a 5-gallon cooler or bucket with a soap dispenser. One cooler can be for drinking and another can be for washing, if necessary. Farms should also consider how workers access restrooms in remote fields. Food safety auditors generally expect at least a portable toilet within walking distance in each work location or transportation that is available for individuals to reach a toilet from each work location.
AJP Resources to implement a safety plan & train your team #
- Instructions (SOP): Planning & Training for Health & Safety. This resource is a condensed, step-by-step process for writing, implementing, and reviewing your farm’s safety plan. Follow these steps when you write your first safety plan; when you update your plan at the beginning of each season; and periodically as part of on-going reviews.
- Template: Farm Health & Safety Plan. This extensive template offers an a la carte foundation for your farm safety plan. Remove sections that don’t apply to your workplace and tailor the remaining sections to fit your needs.