Shortage of skilled workers on farms makes safety training imperative

Arizona farmers and employers face a problem that has shown little signs of improvement in the last few years: a shortage of skilled labor. This issue may cost farmers money in high wages and an increased chance of worker injury.

According to the Arizona Farm Bureau, every farmer’s business is “at stake with every new employee,” especially because farmers may have difficulty finding a legal and reliable workforce that has the skills required to handle physically demanding farm tasks. Employers filling labor needs with an unskilled workforce may want to ensure workers are aware of workplace policies and employment safety standards to protect against workers’ compensation insurance claims and possible lawsuits.

A helpful jumping-off point for employers may be to first ensure a workplace safety guide or policy is in place, which may include information about personal protective equipment when handling chemicals and pesticides; equipment maintenance checks to guarantee proper safety when working with or near heavy machinery; and safety precautions when working with grain silos and livestock.

Arizona employers may also want to schedule safety meetings and discussions to address timely hazards, review job requirements and explain safety guidelines in a group setting. Having readily available first-aid kits, fire extinguishers and machinery manuals and training employees how to use them may prove to be helpful in the case of a jobsite emergency.

Ranchers and farm employers may review farm safety tips from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and create a unique safety plan using the free template checklist on the SCF Arizona website.

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