Agricultural sector: risks and lone work
Lone worker

Agricultural sector: risks and lone work

Léonie Labit
Léonie Labit
April 15, 2024

The agricultural sector plays a major role in Canada. There are nearly 651,000 farmers in Canada, representing 2% of the country’s total population. In Saskatchewan, they represent over 10% of the province’s population.

Like any specific environment, it encompasses a range of health and safety risks for its workers. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the dangers inherent to agricultural practices and to protect the workers as much as possible.


The agricultural sector in Canada

What is farm work?

According to the Canadian government, the notion of agricultural work or employment includes workers who “plant cultivate and harvest crops, raise livestock and poultry and maintain and repair farm equipment and buildings”.

To gain a comprehensive view of agriculture in Canada, we can rely on the 2021 Census of Agriculture, which counted 189,874 farms across the country. Two agricultural production sectors are significantly larger than the others. These are the production of grains and oilseeds, and red meat, which together account for nearly 83% of the total agricultural area.

What are the particularities of agricultural structures?

In terms of area, agricultural lands represent 6.2% of the Canadian territory, which specifically amounts to 62.2 million hectares. Most of the Canadian farms are found in the so-called Prairie provinces which include Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

What makes them special is their large size, as they have consolidated and grown over the years. They have almost doubled in the last 20 years, now averaging 778 acres. This results in a very particular organization of agricultural workers, who are often far from their colleagues on these huge expanses.

Accordingly, there are an average of 91 deaths due to agriculture work each year, and 70% of agriculture-related fatalities were machine-related. These figures highlight the situation and illustrate the importance of establishing strict safety guidelines and providing secure equipment for workers in the sector.

Risks in the agricultural sector

The size of the cultivations gives an idea of some of the risks associated with the agricultural sector. Workers are isolated, and distant from each other, with sometimes no mobile coverage. To ensure their safety, it is important to be aware of these risks and to implement procedures to limit them as much as possible.

In addition, agricultural workers regularly use dangerous machinery or vehicles. The majority of accidents and fatal injuries are due to agricultural machinery, as mentioned just above. Therefore, this particularity must be considered and taken into account in the analysis of the health and safety of the professionals involved.

The risks mentioned are unfortunately not the only ones, as they include all the major hazards that exist in all working environments. Specific risks are therefore added to those already existing in other worker contexts, further compromising the safety of employees in the agricultural sector.


A dangerous agricultural sector exposed to lone work

Constraints and obstacles to OHS management in the agricultural sector

The number of health and safety coordinators, advisors, and managers is on the increase. Their mission is to ensure the well-being of workers and their good working conditions. They lead to increased awareness among employers and employees and also improve certain procedures to enhance safety.

However, the really specific agricultural sector cannot follow this trend. There are no employees dedicated to this type of mission. Thus, it is up to each individual to ensure that health and safety issues are properly addressed. Once these issues are raised, the solutions provided must be simple and quick to implement so that the agricultural sector can adopt them effectively.

The predominance of lone working in the agricultural sector

Agricultural workers often find themselves alone for the majority of the time, typically without any means of communication. They are considered lone workers, as they are out of sight and voice of other people, and cannot be promptly rescued in case of an accident. Therefore, they require special support and specific equipment, especially given the size of agricultural parcels in Canada. This makes contact between different workers particularly complex.

Alone in large spaces, these lone workers will not be helped quickly, which could further exacerbate their potential injuries. It is therefore essential to raise awareness in the agricultural sector about best practices for health and safety at work, and to provide them with simple and effective tools to ensure protection for all.

Isolated farmer

Protection solutions for isolated agricultural professionals

In Canada, section 124 of the Code states that “every employer shall ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected”. Lone farm workers are of course no exception. In Alberta, as in other Canadian provinces, regulations are stricter. According to Part 28 of the OHS Code, employees must “provide the worker with an effective means of communication” and “contact the worker at regular intervals”. In this case, it is mandatory to equip the persons concerned with a communication device that will enable them to exchange constantly with a supervisor but also to detect unusual situations.

The device must also be capable of detecting falls, as agricultural workers are particularly susceptible to this type of accident. However, it is essential not to equip them with a simple “man-down” device, whose algorithm is based on the loss of verticality and may trigger numerous false alarms. For example, if a farmer bends over or makes sudden movements, an alarm may be triggered by mistake. Test the reliability of our fall detection algorithm and make sure your workers are well protected!

It is also recommended in Canada to allow agricultural workers to perform check-in procedures to maintain constant contact. Workers will have to confirm their well-being at regular intervals, and their new locations will be transmitted at the same time. This practice further reduces the risk of accidents and decreases the response time in case of an emergency, which reassures both employees and employers.


In a nutshell

At Neovigie, we’ve combined simplicity and effectiveness to guarantee protection for all professionals, including those in the agricultural sector. This sector is significant across Canada, with high-risk tasks and a high-risk environment.

Our solution, which can be customized by the users themselves, is adaptable to all professions. It thus allows agricultural workers to be protected despite the specific challenges of the sector. Think about equipping your farm workers with a mobile alert application!


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