“Common hand signals can be an ideal solution,” explains Raelyn Peterson, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, “especially when noise and distractions of moving livestock, hooking up farm implements or navigating an oversized load impede communication.”

She adds that the sheer distance between workers can lead to communication breakdowns when working on a farm. Equipment or machinery can make it impossible to hear someone, even if the other person is yelling.

“In cases like that, hand signals can get a message across and be an effective way to communicate.”

A series of standard hand signals, adopted by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, are used for agricultural safety. The signals help everyone communicate in the same language, which can decrease the risk of injury.

Peterson uses the example of a husband and wife team who nearly had an incident on their farm due to lack of communication. It prompted an agreement between the two and their family to learn and implement the set of hand signals.

“Their frustration level reduced significantly because they made that commitment to learn the same language. Less frustration means a safer environment and higher productivity.”

Using hand signals not only saves time and prevents incidents, it can also reduce severity of injuries and lower the risk of accidental death. To be beneficial, the whole team of workers needs to know the hand signals. Farm owners and managers are encouraged to post the hand signals in a place where employees will see them every day.

“It would be a big safety step if all members of Alberta’s farm families, employees and farm visitors learn the standard hand signals and adopt them,” she adds. “It is important to train new employees about the safety features and practices used on the farm. That should include making sure all workers are familiar with and can use hand signals.”

Obtain a diagram of standard hand signals from the Farm safety display webpage.

Contact

To connect with the Alberta Farm Safety Program:

Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)
Email: farm.safety@gov.ab.ca