Bob Aherin 2017-10-25 01:58:22
Improving occupational safety and health for the ag industry and farmers In my 40-plus years working as an agricultural safety program leader at a land grant university, I have learned through experience when dealing with significant agricultural safety issues that pulling together a group of professionals and target audience leaders who can address various aspects of the issue can have significant benefits. These benefits include enhancing the legitimacy of the issue, sharing expertise, sharing resources, enlarging grant support potential, improving communication to target audiences, and enhancing understanding of various aspects of the issue. While I have been involved in forming coalitions on several issues, one of the most involved and effective coalitions I have worked with is the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, which I helped lead the formation of in 2010. On July 28, 2010, in the small northeastern town of Mt. Carroll, Iowa, 14-year-old Wyatt Whitebread and 19-year-old Alex Pacas were killed while working in a grain bin. Will Piper, 20, was trapped for several hours before being rescued. Chris Lawton, 15, was able to escape and call for help. This incident gained national attention and was one factor in OSHA making the grain industry a target industry, resulting in enhanced fines and inspections of grain facilities, which are required to comply with the OSHA grain standard. Because this tragic incident involved both a grain company and farmers who had leased the facilities, it also gained the attention of farmers. About a week after the incident, Catherine Rylatt—an aunt of Alex Pacas—contacted me to discuss what more could be done to prevent these types of tragedies. I suggested that we pull together individuals from various organizations who had both an interest and a responsibility to address various aspects of grain safety. Initially, we identified 14 individuals from various organizations for an initial meeting with the purpose of obtaining an understanding of the many perspectives and ideas on how to more effectively address the issues. Some of the organizations represented in the initial meeting included University of Illinois Extension, the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau, Purdue University Extension, OSHA, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Carle Medical Center, the Community Health Partnership of Illinois (representing migrant workers), FFA, and representatives of various large grain companies. The coalition now has representation from more than 25 organizations. The first two meetings were mostly focused on getting to know each other, the interest level in working together, and what possible resources each group could provide to enhance our grain safety efforts. It was decided to form a coalition with the University of Illinois, as the facilitator providing administrative assistance, and establish a 501(3)c fund for the coalition within the university’s foundation for any contributions the coalition may receive. The agreed-upon mission of the coalition was “to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities across the grain industry spectrum through safety education, prevention, and outreach.” The coalition developed a set of objectives and activities. One of the needs identified by the coalition was for a more comprehensive low-cost training program that was easily accessible. There was a variety of training resources, but they were not consistent, not easily accessible, or too costly according to coalition members. Thus, with myself serving as the project director and through the University of Illinois, the coalition applied for competitive training grants, primarily from OSHA but also from two NIOSH-funded agricultural centers over the past six years. The applications were very attractive to these funding organizations because they were supported by so many organizations from across the grain industry. To date, the coalition has received approximately $800,000 in funding to support various grain safety initiatives. The coalition has conducted training programs for workers, supervisors, farm operators, and safety professionals, as well as train-the-trainer programs for more than 3,000 participants throughout the country, involving nearly 7,000 contact hours. Resources developed include training modules on 12 different grain safety topics, which include three modules focused on older youth. Each module includes: • PowerPoint slides • Hands-on activities • An instructor guide and notes • Additional resource information • Evaluations • Student quizzes • Pre- and post-tests • Fact sheets on issues presented. The coalition has developed four videos to support the training program. All the PowerPoints include a Spanish version. More information on these resources and the coalition can be found at: grainsafety.org. The coalition has also addressed a couple of significant national grain safety issues, including a method to establish a lifeline in existing grain bins and a procedure to allow a worker to be in a grain bin when the sweep auger is running. OSHA has accepted both. Some members have also been involved with the ASABE committee that is developing a new grain bin safety standard, X624 Grain Bin Access Design Safety. The coalition is currently developing a plan to be self-sustaining. Coalitions need to have an operational structure that is comfortable for the group. Currently, the coalition has an executive committee with an elected chair and vice chair. A set of operating guidelines was developed. The structure was developed after conducting a survey among the members about the type of structure desired. This structure is continuing to evolve as needs change. The coalition has been engaged with a professional evaluator in assessing the impact of the program. This allows identification of any needed changes as well as those things that are working well. Coalitions have many positive potential outcomes that can be significantly beneficial in addressing major agricultural safety and health issues. However, moving interventions forward often involves making compromises. Coalitions generally require more time to do some things, such as develop training materials, because of the need for coalition members to review materials before release, and modifications may be needed to allow acceptance by most members. Coalitions with the right mix of representation— and with the right people who are willing to work together and compromise when needed to effect positive changes in injury and health risks—can pay big benefits on many levels. ASABE member Bob Aherin, CSP and Professor, Agricultural Safety and Health Program Leader, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana, USA, email@example.com.
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