Lisa Pfeifer – OSU Ag Safety and Health Education Coordinator
Family farm operations and small agribusinesses often onboard new hires by launching straight into the immediate needs of the operation, using an information on as needed basis kind of approach. No orientation manual to read or video to watch. No HR Department to visit. An employee might be shown the fridge in office and then be about their way to the matter at hand – work. Learning the lay of the land, some hands-on equipment training, information about timekeeping and tax forms, livestock handling and care instruction, and mentoring of tasks are likely all lumped into to the schedule of the first few days or weeks. It is important to get an employee up and running with minimal hand holding because there is generally more work than can be accomplished in the light of a day.
What goes uncovered?
More times than not emergency preparedness. It is hard to compete with a priority list of chores for the day.
Focusing on emergency or disaster response is not a priority because of the generally perceived minuscule threat. Emergencies and disasters happen! In fact, 76 percent of local governments have responded to a major disaster in the past 15 years (Source: the USDA funded Local Government Sustainability Practices Survey).
Establishing training mechanisms for all employees in the area of preparedness will assist in familiarity with access to first aid tools and lower response time in providing support in the event of an emergency.
The following are some things to consider in establishing an employee preparedness plan:
- In the event of an emergency how will people reconnect to ensure everyone is safe? Do not count on cell phones, have a call list. Include emergency contact numbers like the fire and police departments, poison control, family doctor, a trusted neighbor, and home and cell numbers for all employees.
- How will employees caught off-site make the reconnection? Will the scope or type of emergency have different effects on this process?
- Is there livestock to move or transport in the event of an emergency? Is there space to shelter livestock in place? Is there adequate capacity of transport for all livestock should it become necessary to move animals? Where is the alternative shelter located?
- Where are fire extinguishers located on the property? Are you certain employees know how to operate them? Is the proper type of extinguisher located near the various types of ignition sources present on the property?
- Do employees know where Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is stored for chemical handling? Do employees know what PPE to use for the various tasks performed? In the event of a chemical splash or spill, do employees know where the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are located?
- Do employees know where a first aid kit is located? Have you established an injury response protocol for your team of employees and family workers?
- Have instructions been given about how to handle inclement weather?
- Do employees know all exit routes out of structures? Are there instructions on how to exit the property entirely if necessary?
Working through a plan and making employees comfortable with the actions of response will reduce injury and loss.