Farm safety: A prerequisite for sustainable food production in Newfoundland and Labrador
A sustainable approach to food production must address both environmental sustainability and the wellbeing of food producers. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations globally with high rates of injury, fatality, and occupational disease. However, occupational hazards and the practices that lead to unsafe working environments are often overlooked in sustainable food system research. Poor management of occupational health and safety (OHS) can potentially threaten the survival of individual agricultural operations through injury and illness of the operator, family members, and employees. Gaps in agricultural safety knowledge, prevention, and compensation have been unevenly addressed in Canada. This paper presents findings from the first study of agricultural OHS in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). Findings from a 2015-2016 survey of 31 food-producing operators representing 34 large and small operations in three NL regions show: 1) that hazards present within these operations are similar to those found in other contexts; 2) accidents are relatively common and most are not reported to workers’ compensation; 3) some participating operators were unsure whether their farms are subject to the regulations in the NL OHS Act; and, 4) there are gaps in workers’ compensation coverage. Some reliance on local and international volunteers and limited safety training point to other potential vulnerabilities. Study findings highlight the need to incorporate a focused strategy for injury prevention and compensation into efforts to develop a stronger and more sustainable food system in NL. We outline an agenda for future action relevant for NL and other places facing similar gaps and challenges.