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Winter Hazard Prep 101

It’s all about awareness, planning and communication.

By Natalie Noble for Ag for Life


Old Man Winter is back and if previous years are any indication, we can expect extra icy conditions. “Over the last five years, we’ve been having incredible freeze-thaw cycles,” observes Dr. Don Voaklander, director with the U of A’s Injury Prevention Centre. “This can be really dangerous. We have more people showing up in Emergency rooms for falls than we’ve ever had before in the wintertime.”

While year over year farm injury hospitalization data sees little difference in distribution between the seasons, there are a few standout winter hazards. “What you do see in wintertime is an elevated proportion of close encounter animal injuries and on the machine side is an increased proportion of entanglements, primarily with augers,” says Voaklander.

In addition, exposure to winter’s cold and icy conditions can be as dangerous as any injury that actually occurs, especially when working alone. “It’s important to have a communications strategy in place when you’re working on the farm,” says Voaklander. “If someone’s working alone, someone phones them or two-way radios them [periodically] to make sure they’re okay and everything’s going according to plan.”

In preparation for winter’s potential hazards, awareness and planning are key.

Here are Dr. Voaklander’s top tips to keep on your checklist.

  • Large animals. Working in closer quarters with animals more often runs the risk of being crushed against the side of a stall or being stepped on. Extra care is a must.

  • Large equipment. “If you’re moving grain around, be careful with that increased exposure to augers,” cautions Voaklander. “Make sure they’re in good running order and keep the guards on. Make sure everything’s clear and there’s an escape route in case things go a little bit wonky.”

  • Ice. Avoiding falls is all about using ice eliminator in high traffic areas that tend to be icy and wearing the right footwear. Dr. Voaklander recommends people visit the Rate My Treads website to find their best footwear solution. “It lists 18 different brands of workboots that are rated there. You can get the ones with the best friction factor for working on ice,” he says. “Looking for the proper footwear is an important addition to our safety arsenal and that includes footwear for casual use as well.”


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