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Farm Health and Safety: Rural Couples’ Beliefs and Practices

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 5(1): 83-96 . (doi: 10.13031/2013.5702) @1999
Authors:   K. L. Green
Keywords:   Attitudes, Farm safety, Farmer health, Injury prevention, Qualitative data, Rural health.

This article reports on nine Saskatchewan farming couples perceptions of farm health and safety risks, the measures they take to reduce these risks, and factors influencing their practices. Participants were part of a purposive sample, aged 30-50, and engaged in grain and/or livestock farming. Data were collected through three interviews, one with the couple together and twice as individuals. Interviews lasted from two to three hours each and covered a wide range of topics. All participants, especially the women, agreed that farmers generally fail to work as safely as they should. However, farmers are almost always aware of the risks they take. They do not consider themselves careless; rather, they take calculated risks, considering the costs and benefits of particular ways of working. This intuitive decision-making process is complex and influenced by diverse factors. Many aspects of farming work against awareness being translated into action. These include time pressures, the need to rely on personal protective equipment that is uncomfortable and inconvenient, and the absence of any external imposition of safety regulations. The farmers familiarity with his work, along with the need to feel competent, in control, and present-oriented, all tend to diminish his perception of risk. The extent to which farmers actions are congruent with knowledge varies considerably, depending on personal experiences such as upbringing, perceived health and fitness, and feelings of vulnerability, as well as social influences, such as the presence of children, whom the farmers wishes to protect and set a good example for, and behavioral norms. On the positive side, farmers were considered to be more safety conscious than their fathers and certain recommended practices are becoming the norm. However, the larger forces in society that shape farmers working environments do not support the expansion of this trend.

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