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UWRF Receives Farm Safety Grant

By Kirsten Nordstrom
UWRF University Communications

NOV. 14, 2008--The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has received an $8,300 Injury Reduction Grant from the Wisconsin Bureau of State Risk Management. The grant will be used to create new farm safety training sessions, which will annually provide safety awareness education for approximately eight full-time workers and 65 part-time student workers at the two campus laboratory farms.

"It will move us away from the informal one-on-one training that currently takes place and have everyone working under the same 'best practice' procedures," said UWRF Risk Management Officer Connie Smith.

Smith and Laura Walsh, administrative program manager for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), submitted the grant, which will be used to develop six training modules based on common farm injuries, the hazards that cause accidents such as equipment, machinery, slips, trips and falls as well as personal safety, fire safety, chemicals and toxic gases, electrical safety, and livestock handling.

Currently the laboratory farms use a training process where full-time employees work individually with student farm staff. Full-time workers on the campus laboratory farms participate in an annual OSHA training, but with the volume of workers from facilities management and other campus departments it is difficult to train specifically to all farm situations.

The training will increase farm worker ability to recognize hazards and develop safe work practices in order to reduce employee injuries at the two laboratory farms at UW-River Falls. Jonathan Chaplin, Ph. D., engineering consultant and faculty member at the University of Minnesota, will design the modules. With more than 25 years of experience in machinery management and engineering safety. Chaplin is an expert in agricultural engineering, Smith said.

The six in-person workshops are planned to be finished by March, and then will be presented in May to initially get the farm safety program off the ground. Training will occur during six different two-hour sessions, totaling 12 hours of training in a classroom setting. The program will teach participants about the six types of farm hazards in depth, said Smith. Once the six live workshops are developed, the content will be transferred to online training sessions so new full-time employees and part-time student employees on UWRF laboratory farms can complete the training as they are hired.

"A formal farm safety training program that will involve our full-time staff and part-time student workers will be of great benefit to our campus," Smith said. Organizers hope to eventually share the modules will with other UW campuses and state agencies such as Agricultural Research Stations and the Department of Corrections farms. "I am particularly pleased that the agricultural engineering technology faculty have agreed to institutionalize the training program ensuring it will become a permanent course that can be shared with other entities across the state," Smith said.

Other organizations will have the opportunity to customize the templates by adding pictures and other specific detail pertinent to their operations. Ultimately, the goal is that the safety training modules will become a permanent part of the program in CAFES where it will be formalized into a one-credit online course in agricultural engineering technology department, and will be maintained and updated by UWRF faculty. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States.

Mechanical, chemical, and environmental hazards increase the risk of accident for agricultural workers. According to the National Institute for Farm Safety more than 700 farmers die in work-related accidents yearly, and another 120,000 agricultural workers suffer from disability injuries from work-related accidents. In the past three years accidents on the lab farm have included a crushed hand, fingertip amputation, falls, cuts, bruises, and fractures resulting in more than $11,700 of worker's compensation claims. This program hopes to raise awareness of farm safety and decrease injuries. "We want people to work safely and not get injured," Smith said.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:09:18 Central Daylight Time


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