“The key to building a solid health and safety system on your farm is to identify and assess the variety of hazards that workers are exposed to everyday,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “It builds the basis for a plan to control the hazards.

She adds that because of the diversity in tasks, equipment and conditions associated with most farms, many farmers find the process of identifying hazards a stumbling block when creating their farm safety plan.

To break the task of identifying hazards on a farm down to something manageable, it is helpful categorize farm-related hazards:

  • Chemical hazards include solvents, pesticides, welding fumes and fuel vapours.
  • Biological or biohazards include as bacteria, viruses, dust, moulds, animal-borne - zoonoses - diseases and veterinary supplies. This also includes asphyxiation or poisoning from gases in manure storage pits, grain bins, septic tanks and other confined spaces.
  • Physical hazards include electrical currents, heat, light, mechanical movement, vibration, pressurized liquids and radiation such as welder’s flash. Hazards in this category also include noise, machinery, falls, slips, trips, using farm equipment on public roadways - rollover, collision - and working with animals.
  • Environmental hazards include extreme terrain, weather, confined space and working alone or in an isolated place.
  • Ergonomic factors include poor posture or work position and repetitive motion as well as work design or strenuous movements such as lifting or moving.
  • Lifestyle or psychological hazards include smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol or drug abuse, fatigue, and stress caused by long work periods, many work demands, and physical or psychological harassment.

Lubeck says to make this step even more manageable, categorize your farm into different areas, and identify the hazards in each area.

“Categories should correspond with the practicalities of your operation. For example, they could be seasonal, geographical or task-oriented categories, such as equipment operation, grain moving, livestock handling, etc.”

Once the hazards have been identified, the degree of risk they pose needs to be assessed.

“Obviously, some hazards carry a much higher risk than others, and it’s important to know which ones have the highest potential to do harm to workers. These hazards should be addressed first. Keep in mind that a worker is considered to be anyone in the worksite area of a farm, which could include visitors, volunteers and family members such as children.”

She says to ask these questions to determine risk factors:

  • How likely is the hazard to cause harm?
  • Under what conditions is harm likely to occur?
  • How quickly could an unsafe condition arise?
  • What type of harm is involved?
  • How many workers could get hurt?
  • Is there a history of incidents, including near misses resulting from this hazard?
  • What is required to evaluate the risk?

“A periodic self-audit on your operation will help determine how often you will need to revisit your list of identified hazards,” she adds. “Also, keeping track of any incidents that happen throughout the year will add to your list and help you determine a more precise level of risk. The idea is to identify and take action to prevent the hazards from harming you and your workers.”


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