Farm safety and employee management

Farm Forum

It was a bit of a coincidence that one day when I was reflecting on the HOSTA (Hazardous Occupation and Safety Training in Agriculture, or “Tractor Safety” School) that was recently held in Winner, I read an interesting entry in the journal type book by Ryan Taylor, “Cowboy Logic Family Style”.

The theme of Ryan Taylor’s entry in the book was the virtue of his fathers’ management skills, and how he tries hard to treat people the same way, helped of course by his upbringing. At least on a farm or ranch, one of the challenges of a good manager (that would usually be the owner) is when employees (including their children) have “farm wrecks”. Fortunately for the operator, most “farm wrecks” involve various degrees of severity of damage to the piece of farm machinery being used, but not to the person at the controls. I can attest to this as I had several “farm wrecks” while growing up and working for neighbors in my college years, yet remained relatively unscathed in terms of personal injury.

I can also agree with Ryan’s observation of his father’s lack of yelling, screaming, chewing out and belittling of the “wrecker”, in that such actions were about as effective as yelling at cattle. I know I deserved a good tongue lashing after some of my wrecks, and dreaded how bad I might get it when the manager assessed the damage. I don’t recall any severe belittling for my casualties, but do remember a variety of reactions. I didn’t enjoy any of them, but the ones farthest from the yelling, screaming and belittling end of the spectrum motivated me to do better in the future much more than the agitated ones.

Unfortunately too many “farm wrecks” do involve personal injury or much worse. While the farm manager/owner cannot control all of the unsafe acts their employees do, they can remove stress by treating their help fairly and with respect, maintain their equipment and facilities with safety in mind, provide safety instruction and encourage safe work habits.

Four good ideas to control or reduce accidents are: 1. If possible, remove the hazard, 2. If you cannot remove the hazard, guard it, 3. Educate the worker, and 4. Protect the worker.

Nic Uilk, Instructor in the Ag and Biosystems Engineering Department at SDSU, coordinated and taught the HOSTA program and did a great job of informing the eight youth in attendance about the potential perils of working on a farm or ranch. Nic plans to hold a series of HOSTA programs next year at various locations around the state. Fourteen and fifteen year old youth who plan to work on a farm other than for their parents need to complete the requirements for a HOSTA certificate. Somewhat younger and older youth, and those who will be working for their parents are also welcome to attend. For more information on the HOSTA program, contact Nic Uilk at or (605) 688-5675.