July 7, 2011 — Most farmers say safety is an important and essential core value in their operations. But building safety into everyday work plans for themselves, their families and employees is often a different story. Sometimes it’s tough to know the best way to pass-on the safety ethic. But it can be done in six steps.
The first step is identify work expectations. Write a work procedure for each major job on your farm. In it, describe job responsibilities and duties, giving specific performance objectives, standards or requirements for each including safety expectations. This will include describing the quantity and quality of results with emphasis given to critical behaviours. Be sure that you and the worker each have a copy of the written job description. Use it for training and annual performance evaluations.
Second, set up to succeed. Successful work has two primary ingredients – the right worker using the right tools. Select and place workers based on matching their capabilities and competencies with the job. Ensure they have or get proper task instructions, skill training or coaching as needed and give a full review of related policies, procedures and practices. Empower workers by giving them knowledge, responsibilities and authority to succeed at their job. This also means ensuring they have the proper materials, equipment, resources and environment to do the job effectively and safely.
Third, monitor and measure performance. The best way to monitor and measure performance is through simple observation that concentrates on objective, measurable, job related factors such as attendance, accuracy, quantity and quality of work, safety behaviours, and other performance requirements. Evaluate their work and offer both positive comments and areas where improvement is needed. Document your findings as part of your employment business records.
Fourth, provide performance feedback. Provide ongoing feedback to their work in general, pointing out both problems and progress. Use facts, figures and specific incidents to discuss job performance so as to avoid getting personal. Ask questions to ensure two-way communications – as they say "learn to listen and listen to learn." Strive for agreement on how the person is performing and why – and how they can improve.
THE FIVE R's OF EMPLOYEE SAFETY TRAINING
Fifth, practise workplace coaching. Always set a good example as to how to do things safely. When a worker’s behaviour needs to be changed to become safer, correct the behaviour through re-instruction, reminders, reviews, refreshers and reinforcement using a mutual problem-solving approach. Base rewards on results and performance improvements by giving immediate recognition for desired (efficient, safe, productive) behaviour. Make a habit of reinforcing positive performance to make positive performance a habit.
And finally, stimulate continual improvement. Get to know your workers and find out what motivates them. Demonstrate your concern for their health and well-being, career development, professional growth and life-long learning. This means giving them the knowledge, tools and support to work safely. If something goes wrong, help your workers learn from experience by tracing incidents from consequences back to basic causes. Help them enjoy a safe and productive workplace.
For more information on this and other farm safety topics visit www.planfarmsafety.ca .
Theresa Whalen is a CFA Farm Safety consultant.