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Three basic requirements for hiring farm contractors

Farm operators are accustomed to asking contractors for proof of their provincial workers’ compensation insurance coverage and liability insurance before hiring them to do work. A third basic requirement that should be added is asking contractors to demonstrate that they have a health and safety program in place.

Just as it is your responsibility to have a health and safety plan for your farm or ranch, it is also the responsibility of each contractor to have a health and safety plan for their business. For most farm operators your business conditions stay relatively the same from one day to the next, whereas with contractors, they could be working at several different locations every week. This makes their health and safety needs uniquely different – and they should have a plan.

Helping farmers and ranchers reduce the risks in their operations is the core message of the theme Plan • Farm • Safety, a three-year focus for the Canadian agricultural safety campaign. In 2010, the campaign promoted “Plan” with safety walkabouts and planning for safety. This year, the focus is on “Farm” including implementation, documentation and training. And in 2012, emphasis will be on “Safety” including assessment, improvement and further development of safety systems. More information on the campaign is available at www.planfarmsafety.ca .

Too often, contractors, especially small companies, haven’t developed health and safety programs for their business. In an emergency scenario, this will leave them in disarray as to what to do and will almost certainly conflict with the execution of your emergency preparedness plan. This could lead to potential injuries, damaged property and equipment, or costly shutdowns.

One way to determine the safety culture of a contractor is to ask that their health and safety plan be included in their work-bid as part of the consideration for winning the contract.

In the absence of the contractor having a health and safety plan, then this puts greater onus on you to outline and clearly communicate what health and safety measures are expected of all contractors and their employees on your farm, and to do so before any work begins.

Four of the key points to cover include a work site review with the contractor pointing out the location of emergency equipment, power sources, washrooms, etc as well as any potential hazards. Next, ensure the contractor has appropriate means to manage his own safety such as proper tools for the job, scaffolding, personal protective equipment, as such, as required. Third, ensure only authorized people can access the workplace, that they are made aware of hazards, or provided with appropriate supervision. And finally, ensure all contractors and their workers report to you any hazards they become aware of.

The bottom line is that you are ultimately responsible for everyone’s safety on your farm or ranch. Therefore it is imperative to set reasonable safety standards for your workplace and communicate your expectations with contractors before the job begins.

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For more information contact:

Theresa Whalen, Canadian Federation of Agriculture Farm Safety Consultant
T: (613) 822-0016 E: farmsafety@cfafca.ca

Check out the core Canada FarmSafe Plan at www.planfarmsafety.ca .

For more farm safety articles visit: http://communitycontent.ca/en/org/Canadian-Federation-Agriculture and select “Agriculture” as the topic.