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UWRF receives grant to develop safety program

December 11, 2008

The grant application requested $8,300 from the Wisconsin Bureau of Risk Management and calls for six two-hour training sessions, each covering a different area of farm safety. The sessions will be created by Jonathan Chaplin, an engineering consultant and faculty member at the University of Minnesota. He was chosen because of experience in engineering safety and because he can act as an unbiased third party when reviewing the current safety situation at UWRF.

“It’s too easy when it’s your own thing to say, ‘Ah, things look fine,’” Laura Walsh, CAFES administrative program manager, said

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. and results in 120,000 injuries and 700 deaths every year, according to a UWRF press release. Over the last three years, injuries on the lab farms have included a crushed hand and a finger tip amputation, resulting in $11,800 in worker’s compensation.
“I think one dollar is too much,” Connie Smith, UWRF risk management officer, said. “I want to have no injuries and that’s the goal we’ll be working towards.”

The training sessions, expected to be ready by February, will be in the classroom, but it will eventually become an online course worth one credit and available through D2L, so farm employees and students can take it at their own pace. The initial sessions are to gain feedback and audience reaction, so Chaplin can better design the online course, which can then be updated and changed with ease. Other UW System programs and state institutions will also have access to the information, which can be used as is or modified to their specific needs.

“[An online course] is our goal because we can only contain people in the classroom for so long,” Smith said. “We want to make sure that when we have new people coming through, and there’s an issue to retrain, we have the training available in a more convenient venue.”

The safety training that currently takes place is more individual, and consists of supervisors explaining how the equipment works, whereas the training course will be more formalized, giving everybody the same message.

“There hasn’t been any specific spike in problems, it’s just a way to improve what we’ve been doing when we hire both the farm crew and students,” Walsh said. “It’s a way to make sure we’re covering all bases and making sure everybody gets the broad picture of safety information.”