SAIF’s preparation for its 2020-2021 agricultural safety seminars has been more challenging than in years past.
SAIF has provided farm safety seminars for more than 20 years but this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is unable to offer in-person fall sessions. Instead, SAIF will host two separate two-hour webinars Oct. 28 and 29 that between them cover the four hours of content normally provided in a live session.
“We hope to present the seminars in person January through March, but we will make the final call in early December,” Lyn Zielinksi-Mills, SAIF marketing manager, said.
Attendees need not be insured by SAIF to attend the free training, which is geared toward owners, operators, supervisors and foremen of agricultural operations.
Each year SAIF determines the seminar topics based on what is happening in the industry and the questions they are getting from policyholders.
This year, the sessions are:
• Emergency first aid on the farm.
• Ag hacks and other useful tools and innovations.
• Making the most of safety committee meetings.
• Choosing the right personal protective equipment.
In the past SAIF has offered both online and in-person training.
“Our big focus right now is on making sure we are meeting people where they are with the pandemic and wildfires by providing timely information to help keep them and their employees safe,” Zielinksi-Mills said. “This includes regular updates on our coronavirus safety page and increasing the number of online trainings we’re offering, both in English and in Spanish.”
Though overall claims are down compared to this time last year, the not-for-profit, state-chartered workers’ compensation company said all types of claims and injuries caused by existing or known hazards remain prevalent.
“It’s important to follow precautionary guidance for coronavirus, yet there’s a lot of other things on the farm that can hurt workers, too,” Courtney Merriott, SAIF senior safety management consultant and ag seminar presenter, said. “Right now, we must focus on both in order to help prevent injury and illness.”
Small agricultural employers who attend all four hours of the webinars will meet one of the four requirements that exempt small ag operations from random OSHA inspections.
Between regulatory changes, COVID-19 and Oregon’s still-smoldering wildfires, farmers are having to rethink the way they do business.
“It’s a full-time job managing pandemic controls, changes to the supply chain, limited personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, and harvesting time-sensitive crops,” Merriott said. “At the same time, people are sharing resources and information like never before and we’ve seen great virtual communication among SAIF’s Agricultural Networking Group.
Adapting to the rapidly changing health landscape has been the name of the game, she said.
“My experience is that farmers are adapting as quickly as possible to keep people safe, but it’s difficult,” Merriott said. “People are fatigued.
“The farming community is so supportive of each other and their teams and working with the ag industry is extremely rewarding,” Merriott said. “They play such a critical role in supporting Oregon’s economy, food supply, and, ultimately, our community.”