Savonia Article: Farm Occupational Safety Management and Attitudes: navigating challenges and cultivating change

This work is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

On March 15, 2024, the second workshop meeting of the Finnish Community of Practice (FinCoP) of the Safehabitus project took place. The event was conducted remotely. FinCoP brought together 20 members representing various organizations, including the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the Farmers’ Social Insurance Institution, the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), the Agricultural Entrepreneur’s Holiday Unit, ProAgria, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Natural Resources Institute Finland, and Savonia University of Applied Sciences. This diverse composition allowed the FinCoP group to gather different perspectives and utilize them to formulate practical solutions, especially for farmers. The main theme of the workshop was farm occupational safety management and attitudes.

During the workshop, two experts and one farmer provided complementary insights. Expert and entrepreneur Elina Vehviläinen-Liikka addressed the attitude of farmers, advisory organization expert Petri Koivisto described the impact of management on occupational safety, and farmer Hanna-Liisa Nousiainen shared her personal experiences with occupational safety and related factors. At the end of the meeting, views on attitudes and management were explored through a Padlet survey.

Elina Vehviläinen-Liikka pinpointed that the importance of occupational safety on farms is not underestimated, but it may be neglected due to various factors such as haste, limited workforce, peak workloads, deficiencies in machinery and equipment, fatigue, stress, and cost pressures. In her opinion, it is important to consider how the farm will cope if a key person is unable to work due to illness, injury, or other reasons. Therefore, we must state a question: How can one’s own attitude be used to teach others? Elina strongly believes that it is beneficial to practice risky situations to make us ready facing future challenges once occur. We cannot forget that we are not alone here. Being a part of the network, we have the access to various tools supporting farmers. After her speech echoed a question whenever we can truly claim to prioritize safety on farms if we continue to overlook the systemic barriers and challenges faced by farmers every day?

Petri Koivisto on another hand placed a focus on inner dependency, where business management encompasses strategic management, operational management, and production processes. He drew similarities with the Eisenhower matrix, where tasks can be categorized based on their urgency and importance into different areas of the matrix. Petri strongly believes that the attention should be focused on non-urgent and important tasks, as problems management creates urgency, which prevents the recognition of risks. He puts at the doubt if it is still relevant that “a leader works for tomorrow” if we face a continuous rush and time constrains. So, in the relentless pursuit of productivity, are we inadvertently sacrificing safety on the altar of efficiency?

Hanna-Liisa Nousiainen opened her speech with the statement that the farm is a complex entity where physical and mental aspects are intertwined. She brought to the front a question on how we can cultivate a culture of safety on farms that transcends mere compliance and becomes ingrained in the fabric of everyday life? Her question inspired participants to reimagine the role of safety in the agricultural sector and envision a future where every farmer can work without fear of harm.

Finally, when the workshop was heading to an end, the participants were asked to draw a path forward towards a safer, more suitable future for all. Using Padlet they shared perspectives on farm attitudes towards occupational safety, as well as characteristics of a safe farm, and proposals for improving occupational safety.

FinCoP continues intensive work over the farm safety themes relevant for the Finnish dairy sector. The next FinCoP meeting will be held by the end of May 2024, focusing on the best practices and challenges at farmers’ holiday and stand-in scheme.

Agnieszka Laherto and Mika Repo

SafeHabitus Project