Some visitors may be planned, and others may be unplanned or unwanted. Either way, it is important to consider the safety of the visitors, your employees and animals. All employees and family should be aware of the protocols and best practices for visitors and what to do in the event of an unplanned or unwanted visitor.
Who might visit our farm?
Some of the visitors on your farm may be there for a planned visit or may have arrangements for a recurring visit. Examples of these types of visitors may include:
Technicians and maintenance personnel – examples may include someone who is on-site to do regular maintenance to robots, farm equipment or other items.
Contractors and service personnel – examples may include a company building a barn addition or installing lighting or a ventilation system.
Truck drivers and delivery personnel – for example, the milk hauler or the person delivering chemicals, feed or supplements.
Vets and other individuals there to provide animal care – this may include someone coming to do hoof trimming or other animal care.
There are many other potential visitors. Therefore, it is important to consider the individuals who make regular or infrequent visits to your farm.
Keep in mind, children and family members may also be considered visitors since they may not be aware of the potential hazards in all areas of the farm and may be at a higher risk for injury and illness.
How do we keep visitors safe?
There are many steps you should take to try to ensure anyone visiting your farm is kept safe. Some of those steps can be taken before the visit. Schedule visits and ensure visitors obtain permission before coming to the farm. Advise visitors of farm protocols before they arrive. For example, tell them if they are required to have any personal protective equipment (PPE) or other items before they arrive. Post signage in specific areas to show the hazards or keep visitors out of the area. This may include signs in areas with heavy equipment use, on ladders, on doors leading to confined spaces and on the gate to a manure pit. Additionally, post “By Appointment Only” signage at the farm entrances with a contact phone number.
When the visitor arrives, and throughout their time on the farm, there are steps farm owners and employees must take to ensure everyone’s safety. Keep visitors away from equipment operating areas as much as possible. Operators must be on high alert for anyone who is walking around the farm or may not be aware of where the equipment is operating or the risk of injury during its operation. Do not allow visitors to operate any equipment unless they have been trained and can provide proof of competency.
For example, if a contractor wants to use your lift truck, they should obtain approval and provide a copy of their current training certificate. Ensure visitors stay away from animals unless they are required to be in the area and they understand safe animal-handling procedures. Ensure visitors follow biosecurity protocols and clean their boots and other clothing when they arrive and before they leave.
Because every area of the farm has its own unique hazards, you must provide safety information to visitors about the specific areas they will be visiting and the tasks they will be doing. Do not let visitors walk around the farm on their own unless they have received specific instruction about the safety procedures for the area they will be visiting and the task they will be performing.
Unplanned or unwanted visitors
These visitors will likely arrive with no prior notice and may include:
Activists or protestors
Reporters or other media personnel – this may happen following an incident on your farm or in the industry that is in the media
People walking, riding ATVs or other equipment onto any part of the farm/fields
Suspicious individuals that may be looking at different areas or taking pictures. There may be a concern that these individuals are staking out the property for future theft or vandalism.
Individuals who do not have a planned visit who are looking for a job or other information about the farm. This may include sales representatives as well.
If you are unsure about why the person is there, approach them and ask who they are and why they are there. If they have a valid reason to be there, direct or escort them to the proper person or area. If they do not have a valid reason to be there, calmly ask them to leave. Do not allow these visitors to walk or drive around the farm. Advise them to leave right away. If you are suspicious about their purpose for being there, you should write down their name, get their phone number if possible and write down their license plate number or take a picture of the license plate. Notify your manager of any unwanted or suspicious visitors, as this may be a repeat occurrence or may require further action. Report any suspicious or questionable visitors or behaviours to Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
If there appears to be a risk of violence, vandalism, risk to animal or any other concern, call 911. If it is safe to do so, for example if the person is calm and does not appear to present an immediate danger, you can calmly approach them and respectfully tell them they need to leave the property. If necessary, you can calmly let them know you have called the police. Using your phone or pen/paper, record the license plate number and any other key information.
Keep a record of your interactions with activists and protestors, as well as your interactions with the police; include dates, times, names and other information. If the person becomes hostile or causes any damage, you should leave the area right away and go to an area that you can lock the door. Where possible, lock the doors to the milkhouse, barn and your home in these situations. Once the situation is under control, contact your provincial dairy board (i.e., Dairy Farmers of Ontario) to notify them of the occurrence and provide all relevant information.
There are other things you can do to deter unwanted visitors from your operation. Post no trespassing and private property signs, as well as biosecurity signage. All employees should be observant and report any suspicious activity or visitors. Keep areas locked when possible, lock vehicles and take keys out of equipment. Store vehicle and equipment keys in a secure location. Consider adding video surveillance to barns or high-traffic areas of the farm. Do not communicate or engage with anyone from the media or protestors at any time. This includes in-person visitors, as well as conversations or comments on social media. If you are approached by the media for any reason, please advise them to leave the property and speak to your manager right away. end mark
Cheryl DeCooman, CHRL, can also be reached at (519) 532-2508 or on Twitter and Instagram.