Dee Jepsen – State Agricultural Safety and Health Leader
I recently talked with a colleague who worked in an agricultural labor organization, outside of Ohio. He told of his experience at a local produce market where the farmers displayed a poster-sized photo of their family operation. The family was proud of their operation, and used this photo as a way to engage with their customers. However the photo contained several safety infractions that clearly portrayed an operation that disregarded safe work practices. Children were shown riding on the fenders of the tractors and the machinery was missing safety features. He also described several dogs running through the produce fields – which would be a health violation for larger producers. He asked me how the small farm safety exemption (an exemption from government departments of labor) saved lives; he also asked how this family farm photo would be received amongst Ohio farm market consumers who wanted to buy healthy produce to feed their own families.
After our conversation, I really thought about his questions. I thought about ways we could work with farmers to use better market strategies when it came to highlighting their family farm. And I wondered if family farms understood the image they portrayed when they put workers – even family workers – in high-risk situations.
As a farm wife and mother, I understand how difficult it is to “walk the line” to maintain safety rules. And I certainly understand the heritage and pride farmers take to teach young workers the value of work ethic and responsibility. True, our small farm culture is a way of life. But can our way of life also respect safety and health practices that are required on large farm operations? I wouldn’t want to appear to go against the grain of our farming community by challenging the status safety quo… or would I challenge all of our Ohio small farmers to think about the image they portray when they show a general disregard for safety?
My friend finished our conversation by saying he wouldn’t buy the produce from a farm that didn’t show respect for their workers, or put their own children in high-risk situations. This statement, while very bold, made me think about ways to help Ohio’s family farmers/farm markets, show their best image when it comes to advertising. Perhaps these tips can also transfer to the farm blogger and social media post person.
Tips for Good Safety Photos of your Farm Operation:
Do Not include photos of tractors without a Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS)
Do Not show tractors or machinery with missing guards or being used inappropriately
Do Not show children riding on adults’ laps or children riding with other children on tractors, lawn tractors, or All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Do Not show individuals riding in unsafe manners on any farm machinery or in the back of pickup trucks
Do Show photos of workers in clean, uncluttered work environments
Do Show photos of workers wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Do Show livestock in good health and contained within proper fencing
Do Show young workers doing supervised age-appropriates tasks