Machinery-Related Operational Factors as Determinants of Injury on Canadian Prarie Farms
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Background: Agriculture remains one of the most hazardous occupations in Canada. Approximately one-half of all agricultural injuries are due to machinery. The etiology of machinery-related injury remains poorly understood. Objectives: (1) To evaluate the relative importance of two representative safety practices (i.e. safety device use and routine maintenance) and their relationship with machinery-related injury;(2) To evaluate the roles of situational factors and safety practices in the occurrence of entanglement injuries caused by machinery. Methods: Objective 1. Participants were administered the Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort Study baseline survey for a one-year period of recall (2006). Relationships between the machinery-related injury outcome and two safety practices were analyzed cross-sectionally using the farm as the unit of analysis; Objective 2. A descriptive case-series was analyzed for factors surrounding 41 machinery entanglements using data from the Case-Control Farm Machinery Injury Study (2000-2005). Results: Objective 1. Limited use of safety devices on machinery during farm operations was associated with higher risks for injury (RR 1.94; 95% CI 1.13 to 3.33; ptrend=0.02). Lower routine maintenance scores were associated with significantly reduced risks for injury (RR 0.54; 95% CI 0.29 to 0.98; ptrend=0.05). Objective 2. The majority of entanglements occurred during a few machinery-related tasks, namely (1) field adjustments of machinery; (2) product handling and conveyance; and (3) driveline attachments and servicing. Both expected and unanticipated hazards inherent to these tasks affected the behaviour of farmers, leading to entanglements. Conclusions: Objective 1. The first finding implies that injury prevention programs require continued focus on the use of safety devices on machinery. The second finding could indicate that maintenance itself is a risk factor, or that more modern equipment that requires less maintenance places the operator at lower risk. These findings provide etiological data that confirm the practical importance of operational safety practices as components of injury control strategies on farms. Objective 2. Systemic changes are required to improve existing machinery safety practices through engineering, work methods and work practice modifications. In addition to design solutions, occupational health and safety strategies should consider activities associated with hazardous situations to inform the content of training and educational efforts.