Safety awareness for your agricultural employees: Part 3

Workplace safety is a concern for all employers, especially in more hazardous industries such as agriculture. Employers are now looking beyond the workplace to ensure that their workforce stays safe 24/7.

Workplace and worker safety was the focus of the 2013 Michigan Safety Conference held in Grand Rapids. Employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace to employees. Minimizing hazards in the workplace is obviously an area where employers can have the most control. However, statistics show that employees are less likely to be injured at the workplace compared to being injured at home, in their car, and in public spaces.

Employers wanting a stable workforce are concerned about their workers’ safety, not only at work but also at home. These employers are turning to safety programs that address safety 24/7 – not just in the workplace. This year’s keynote speaker at the Michigan Safety Conference, Don Wilson of SafeStart, spoke about 24/7 safety awareness and the safety skills that business owners and employees can develop to reduce the likelihood of injury wherever they are. 

In the first two articles of this three part series by Michigan State University Extension and MIFACE we covered the “states” that we can find ourselves in, and the “critical errors” that these states can cause or contribute to.  The four states were Rushing, Frustration, Fatigue and Complacency. The Critical Errors were Eyes not on Task, Mind not on Task, Line-of-Fire, and Balance/Traction/Grip. 

Wilson shared that we can develop our safety skills , just like we can develop work skills or life skills. We don’t have to accept that accidents “just happen”.

The first skill that Wilson shared was to self-trigger on the “state” (or amount of hazardous energy) so you don’t make a critical error. Recognizing if we are rushing, frustrated, fatigued or being complacent can help us make adjustments to our behavior and reduce our chances of having an accident. This self-triggering process also gets our mind and eyes back on the task that we are performing. It is a challenge for us to self-trigger or recognize complacency. If we are being complacent, it’s likely that we feel that we “have it all together”, so we need another tool in our box to help us address this state.  

The second skill is to analyze close calls and small errors. It’s easy to agonize over the accidents that we have had that could have been even worse. It takes more courage, time, and effort to find the small errors and close calls that we have every day and determine what we went wrong and how we can avoid that situation in the future. Think about how many close calls and small errors we have over our lifetime. It is so easy to just accept them as part of life. To be sure, we will never get rid of all risk or chance for accidents, but we can certainly reduce an accident’s likelihood by learning from our close calls and small errors.

The third skill is to look at others for the patterns that increase the risk of injury. I once was driving down the road and glanced over to see a driver curling her hair as she drove down the road. She actually had a curling iron plugged in to a convertor in the car! I’m sure you’ve seen some interesting driving techniques as well! When we notice risky behaviors in others, it can help trigger us to examine our own behaviors and make adjustments that will help us reduce our risk of injury. Instead of just seeing something ridiculous (like curling your hair while driving) and writing it off, look for ways that you may be driving distracted (like watching her curl her hair instead of watching the road) and make a change.

The fourth and final skill that Wilson suggests is work on habits. Among the many definitions of “habit”, one is “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.” Think about it. Safety habits are something that we can actually acquire and improve on, but we need to make it a conscious effort. Training yourself to always look before you stand up, or take a step in a certain direction is a “habit” that can be formed if we practice it regularly. On the farm, putting a seatbelt on when we are driving a piece of equipment equipped with a roll over protection structure is a habit as well. 

Safety awareness - understanding how the “states” we are in can lead to critical errors that can cause injury and developing safety skills to avoid critical errors, will benefit everyone, both on and off the job. Remember - we don’t have to accept that accidents “just happen.”

These concepts and techniques are derived from SafeStart, a safety training program from Don Wilson's company. To learn more about Wilson, Safestart and how you can use these techniques to reduce injuries, please visit

Other articles in this series:

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