by Peter Mitham
QUESNEL – It was a sunny Friday evening as Mike Bailey, a long-time advocate of farm safety, was driving a tractor with equipment attached along Hwy 97 south of Quesnel. A pick-up truck driven by his wife, Katina, followed to ensure separation from other motorists.
Shortly after 5 pm, a Greyhound bus bore down on the pair Tractor on hwyfrom behind. By quarter past the hour, the highway was shut down in both directions and Bailey was dead. London remains in hospital, and her family is raising funds to assist with costs.
The tragedy underscores the fragility of life, even for those who have worked to protect it.
“What we have here is a guy who was exemplary in his attention and his attitude towards health and safety. I’ve worked with him for over 15 years, and he was ahead of the game when there was not as many regulatory requirements and he was extremely keen,” says Reg Steward, provincial ranching safety consultant for AgSafe BC. “He was very active with his inspections and his safety meetings.”
Having a pilot vehicle was typical of Bailey’s approach to safety, Steward points out: “That’s above and beyond what most people do.”
An investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing and Steward says that even if Bailey followed all safety procedures, the circumstances of the specific situation were unique – and that can make all the difference.
The hurdle for many people, Steward says, is making safety a habit, and being able to think dynamically about the risks they’re facing. It’s easy to have the right attitude and take precautions, but opportunities always exist to make the wrong call.
“The reality is, risk in agriculture is always in flux. The creek you crossed yesterday that’s six inches is now six feet: you can have a procedure for moving across the creek but you must be able to read the dynamics that the risk has just presented to you,” says Steward, a working cowboy who knows how quickly conditions can change on the range. “You get out in a field by yourself and all sorts of things can happen. So dynamic risk management is really the key to the ability to survive things that turn ugly.”
Training people to gauge the risks of a particular situation and still do the right thing is something the farm safety consultants affiliated with AgSafe try to do.
“We can put a thousand things on pieces of paper in a binder in an office, but that pertains to a certain action or activity with a particular piece of equipment or task you’re trying to manage in a given context,” says Steward. “But the thing that will keep you alive will be your ability to exercise a changed behaviour given the in-flux or dynamic risk. … That’s one of the things we’re trying to help people with.”
When it comes to operating farm vehicles and equipment on public roads, ICBC has produced a guide that summarizes what’s required.
Part 16 of WorksafeBC’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations also covers what’s required for the safe operation of mobile equipment. Complying with the licensing, insurance and operating requirements should be second-nature, but grey areas exist.
Seatbelts, for example, are mandatory where provided and required by law, or when operating tractors where there’s a significant risk of roll-over or a risk of uneven ground (even if there’s a roll-over protection system in place). However, the regulations note that they’re not required “where there is no significant hazard of rollover, and the surface in the area of operation is maintained free of ground irregularities which might cause a rollover.”
The call is left up to the operator and that’s where Steward says safety becomes a question not just of compliance but knowing what to do.
“You need to manage risk because certain things are inherently risky,” he says. “There’s compliance, which is usually imposed upon us. There’s the attitude that we bring to health and safety which determines how far we’re going to go with some things, and then there’s the actual doing of [the] things that you know need to be done.”
Vol. 103 Issue 6
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
ALR committee files report
Cannabis drives drop in Delta farm assessments
Editorial: Party and province
Back Forty: You can’t get apps on that
Viewpoint: Annual assessments a chance to take stock
Preliminary hearing in high-profile poultry abuse
Survey keeps national park reserve in spotlight
Political engagement headlines dairy meeting
World milk prices take blame for shifting returns
Patience is a virtue
Ag Briefs: Sasaki appointed new head of chicken board
Ag Briefs: Ottawa invests in dairy sector
AB: Piece rates, taxes increase
AB: AITC focuses on growth
Letters: Protect farmland from cannabis production
Letters: Dog owners need to accept responsibility
Letters: The beef about climate change
Cadillac’ of aviaries will reduce labour costs
Berry growers face new import requirements
Open house reveals secrets of diagnostics lab
Cannabis propagation industry sprouting in BC
Sidebar: Deep roots
FCC targets women with new business program
Agreement sets stage for fish farm phase-out
Grazing, forage and water top list at town hall
Ranchers reassured regarding bovine TB cases
Digging into soil nutrition at education day
Science of cannabis takes centre stage
Blueberry growers hone use of box liners
Ostrich industry takes flight with big plans
Tunnels boost fruit quality, add to berry season
Big bucks being spent to protect bee health
Sidebar: Province boosts funding
Mystery bee disease studied
Direct-marketing opportunities have potential
Research: Preventing soft scald in apples
Regional food system is the new focus of group’s efforts
Wannabe: Growers deserve our love
Woodshed: A performance Kenneth can’t afford to miss
Jude’s Kitchen: Happy new year, my sweet Valentine