By Dee Jepsen
National Farm Safety and Health Week is Sept. 19 through Sept. 25, 2021. This annual promotional week commemorates the hard work, diligence and sacrifices made by our nation’s farmers and ranchers. The promotion reminds us to take time for safety as we head into the fall harvest season.
The 2021 theme is “Farm Safety Yields Real Results.” This positive message implies safety practices not only protect lives but also yield profitable results for the farm. Effective safety practices can also save the operation money in the long term. Like any business plan, there are input costs that help operators yield a profit. Implementing an effective safety program takes forethought, training and a budget to put recommendations into practice.
Direct costs of a safety program
Direct costs appear on your balance sheet. These can include:
• Worker’s compensation or group rating program fees
• Safety training programs
• Personal protection equipment (PPE)
• Facility and equipment costs — includes scheduled maintenance of farm buildings and implements, machine guarding, sensor detection systems, fire extinguisher maintenance
• Consultant fees for specialized training programs or paid inspections
• Liability fines or legal fees in cases of regulatory compliance situations
Each farm operation will vary in the scope of these direct costs, depending on the size and scope of the commodities farmed. This is also true for the number of employees the farm hires. Another factor that increases safety costs are specific to those farms who invite the public to their property, specifically agritourism and u-pick farms.
Indirect costs of a safety program
No one predicts accidents or injuries — yet these events need to be included in your safety program conversations. It is short-sighted to think that these unfortunate incidents will not happen in your business. When they do, there are costs involved.
• Equipment repair or replacement costs
• Medical costs, including long-term rehabilitation of the injured worker
• Loss of time while a worker is not on the job, including any compensation during sick time
• Reduced productivity of the remaining work team and/or overall poor morale
• Employee replacement or re-training costs when the employee doesn’t return in the same season.
There are no short cuts on safety
You can’t afford to take shortcuts when it comes to safety. In the majority of cases, and depending on the severity of the event, an accident will have higher costs than the prevention strategies. By investing in safety along the way, you may reduce your overall safety costs and have a long and thriving agricultural business. The real benefactor of an effective safety program is a healthy workforce, no matter the size of your operation.
Perhaps the best way to look at costs of safety is to not look at the direct costs. But rather, look at the value of the safety practices you put in place.
Dee Jepsen, Professor, can be reached at 614-292-6008 or email@example.com. This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.