The Manitoba Farm Safety Program (FSP) is celebrating Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) March 11-17, 2018 by bringing awareness to safe aging on the farm. This year’s theme is “Supporting Seniors”, which holds relevance to the fact that in Canada, there are currently more farmers over age 70 than under 35.

The wisdom and experience seniors bring to farming is vital to preparing the younger generation and preserving the quality of the agricultural industry. Unlike other industries however, there is no mandatory retirement age for farming meaning that many continue to work into their 70’s and even 80’s.

“With aging, there is a natural decline in some of our motor skills and other functions that change how one must manage their health. This is an inevitability for all humans,” says Manitoba Farm Safety Program (FSP) Director, Keith Castonguay. “Eating properly, following instructions for medication use, asking for help when needed, and recharging through rest are simple personal risk management practices that can help reduce farm accidents.”

Due to natural changes that come with age, farming past the average retirement age has lead to a trend in farm accidents involving seniors. Farm deaths involving farmers +65 years now account for more than half of fatal accidents on farms in Canada. One study on work-related mortality in older farmers found that of 151 deaths that occurred while performing farm work, 125 were owner-operators. Most were found to be working alone at the time.

Being open to, and willing to put trust in the help of others is key to safe farming practice.

The following are modifications and precautions to consider for seniors working on farms:

  • Increase light in low visibility areas and complete tasks during ample daylight

  • Be aware of which prescription drugs slow reaction times and cause fatigue

  • Work with others or, if this is not possible, arrange more frequent check-ins

  • Increase frequency of contact using a cell phone or radio

  • Allow any injuries time to fully heal and ensure ample rest

  • Assess abilities and limitations on a regular basis

With an average age of 53.8 years, Manitoba has the second youngest population of farm operators in Canada as per the 2016 census data. Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture, Ralph Eichler points out the influence young farmers can have on increasing farm safety for seniors.

“Everyone in our farming community, and especially our young farmers, has the opportunity to set an example on working safely for this and future generations. We should be encouraging our farmers to take an active role in setting that example while harnessing the wisdom and experience senior operators bring to family farms.”

CASW 2018 is presented by Farm Credit Canada and brought to you by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture with assistance from the Government of Canada through Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial and territorial initiative. In 2018, CASW sponsors include long-time corporate sponsor Farm Credit Canada, as well as CN, Dow AgroScience, Syngenta and Fertilizer Canada.