Most farms work tirelessly to identify and guard the hazards on their farm. Farmers even take things to the next step by ensuring we train our farmworkers to avoid accidents or use PPE to prevent accidents or injuries. And still, accidents happen. When accidents occur on your farm, do you feel confident that your farm employees will notify you first or even at all? Below we'll explore your duties as an employer, and how to create a space that allows farmworkers to inform the farm first about accidents and near-miss situations.
Why is Reporting Important?
OSHA defines an accident as an unplanned event that results in personal injury or property damage. Farms must know immediately that an accident has occurred to put the correct guards in place to avoid the injury of another worker. Notifying managers of accidents can also create conversations throughout the farm that will identify similar hazards that others may be facing—as a result, reducing the potential for future accidents. Once an accident has occurred, reporting the accident should become the number one priority. Visit Injured Worker-What you need to know to follow along with the critical requirements that pertain to documentation and follow-up. A thorough report will become necessary if the employee wishes to seek medical care for any injuries that may have occurred.
Near Miss Reporting
OSHA defines a Near Miss as, as an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred. A near miss is the most significant indicator of an accident that is highly likely to happen in the future. Collecting near-miss reports can help create a culture that works to identify and control hazards. Over time this will reduce the potential for future accidents by putting safety at the front of farm workers' and managers' minds. Use supervisors as your safety eyes and ears. They must look out for hazards or accidents that may occur in the future. When a near-miss goes unreported, their causes usually go uncorrected. The risk will linger, and next time may result in a disabling injury or fatality.
Easy & Fair Accident Reporting For Farmworkers
The easier reporting is for your farm workers, the more likely they are to report an injury before seeking medical help. OSHA has created an accident reporting framework that allows an initial report by the farmworker that is easy to understand and quick to complete. It also includes a secondary report to be completed by the supervisor. Finally, have a safety officer or knowledgeable HR staff member complete a full investigation report. OSHA has more information on this reporting structure. Whatever documentation you use, make sure it gathers the information needed.
Pro-tip: Farmworkers that are worried about losing hours or being moved to a slower-paced crew are less likely to report an accident. Make sure all employees know that being in or reporting an accident will not hurt their opportunities on the farm. Make right on that promise by ensuring managers in charge of making crew assignments do not punish workers.
When accidents go unreported, it becomes far more likely that the worker's injury will worsen, and the same accident may occur in the field to another worker.
Offer Anonymity in Near-Miss Reporting
It's understandable for a company to require a name in an accident report. If an injury has occurred, the farm must know who was injured and any witnesses to the injury. However, when it comes to near-miss situations, it may be best to allow anonymous reporting. Allow workers to offer information to management without fear of repercussions. Suppose a farmworker has concerns about the work site's safety or a near-miss has just occurred. In that case, you'd want to hear from that worker. Imagine finding out later, after an accident, that the worker wanted to speak up but didn't. When speaking about near-miss situations with groups of employees, refrain from using names or identifying information.
Pro-tip: Help your workers to understand that reporting a near miss is encouraged by publicly thanking the anonymous reporters.
Among our customers, we've found that those who use our anonymous reporting and two-way chat are more likely to address safety issues that employees care about. Because of that, their farmworkers are happier and have become more open to reporting issues at their worksites. You can see how this becomes a powerful feedback loop for safety.
Notifying Field Workers and Gathering Input
Notifying all farmworkers of recent near-miss situations and accidents on your farm is another great way to encourage future reports. Simple cases can be communicated to workers quickly via text messaging. For more complex incidents, use the opportunity to walk through the near-miss with your crews and show them the correct safety protocol. Remember, the importance should not be on who was wrong, if anyone. Focus mostly on what hazards are present. Ask yourself what guards, PPE, or farmworker training you can introduce to avoid future incidents. Ask your workers what preventative actions they would have taken?
There is no way for you to have eyes on all of the work done in the field. But using these ideas, you can create a space that allows farmworkers to notify the farm first about accidents, and near-miss situations, resulting in a more compliant, responsible, and safe business.
Additional OSHA Resources
To assist employers and workers in conducting effective incident investigations and to develop corrective action plans, the following resources can help:
- OSHA Fact Sheet. Root Cause: The Importance of Root Cause Analysis During Incident Investigation. (2016). This fact sheet provides guidance for identifying root causes of incidents and/or near misses to prevent their recurrence.
- OSHA. Incident [Accident] Investigations: A Guide for Employers. (2015). This guidance document provides employers with a systems approach to identifying and controlling the underlying or root causes of all incidents to prevent their recurrence.
- National Safety Council. How to conduct an incident investigation. (2014). This four-page guidance document, developed by the OSHA/NSC National Alliance, provides brief guidance on conducting an incident investigation.
- Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Accident Investigation Basics. (2009). This PowerPoint-based online training module provides an overview of conducting root-cause workplace incident investigations.