Personal Hygiene

Like occupational hygiene discussed in the last weeks sustainability series installment, personal hygiene is just as important.  The Farm Sustainability Assessment Tool code FSA 108 and FSA 109 asks, “Do you ensure that all people on the farm have access to safe drinking water and hygienic toilet and hand-washing facilities?”

  • Where do workers on your farm have access to safe drinking water? Do they have clean cups and bottles to drink from?
  • Do you have an adequate number of toilets for each gender working on your farm? Are the toilets kept clean?  Are the toilets easily accessible by the worker?
  • Do you have reasonable hand washing facilities or supplies available? Are the hand washing facilities or supplies close to the toilets and eating areas?
  • Do you supply an eating area outside of areas where food can become contaminated?
  • Is there an area to change in and out of barn clothes or other clothes that are soiled from work?
  • Are shower facilities available if a worker’s skin can be contaminated by a hazardous substance?

Maintaining good personal hygiene will reduce the chances of contracting cold, flu and stomach illness.  You can empower workers to maintain good personal hygiene by having the above-mentioned facilities readily available, where possible.

Develop a cleaning procedure to ensure personal hygiene facilities are safely cleaned.  Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety outlines the required type and number of personal hygiene facilities.  Use this as a guide to ensure you have the necessary facilities and supplies available.

Providing adequate drinking water, hygienic toilets and hand washing facilities will ensure your workers are comfortable and increase their morale.  This is one more step in building a sustainable farm.



  1. Part 4 of the Occupational Health and Safety General Regulations


Occupational Hygiene

Occupational hygiene deals specifically with health hazards on the farm.  The Farm Sustainability Assessment code FSA106 asks, “Do you undertake activities to promote the prevention of diseases and do you encourage personal hygiene?”  What this means is are you training workers on the health hazards that have been identified on your farm?  The Farm Safety Plan in section 3 gives resources to identify hazards on the  farm, evaluate the hazards for risk, and section 4 gives resources on the types of hazard controls to use to mitigate the hazard and lower the residual risk.

The types of health hazards that farmers and their workers may be exposed to are chemical, physical and biological.  Adding occupational hygiene into your safety program can help reduce work-related health issues such as hearing loss, disease or illness from long-term chemical use, biological exposures from mold, bacteria, fungi and plants, skin disorders, allergies, poisoning, and other work-related conditions.

An occupational hygiene program may sound complicated but it is rather simple.  You have already identified the hazards, know the risk of the chemical, physical, and biological risks, now just check the hazard controls you are currently using.  Are the hazard controls adequate in preventing a health condition?

Types of controls to consider are:

  1. Isolation – Enclose the process or the employees performing the process
  2. Control the process or change the process
  3. Change the source of the hazard such as wetting dust or lowering liquid temperatures to reduce vapours
  4. Ventilation
  5. Substitute materials for less hazardous materials
  6. Train workers
  7. Air or biological sampling
  8. Medical monitoring
  9. PPE such as masks, respirators, gloves, protective clothing, safety glasses, and hearing protection

Preventing health conditions improves worker health and increases life expectancy, reduces the number of workers who leave the farm through injury and illness, lower healthcare costs, maximizes a worker’s potential, more efficient work process and increased productivity.  All of these benefits positively affect the worker and helps the farm become more sustainable by decreasing losses.


  1. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
  2. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. Health Canada
  4. National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health
  5. National Safety Council

How to make your Commitment to Mental Health

In a previous post, we looked at how to draft a Mental Health and Safety Policy for the workplace to lay out the expectations to all members of your farm in creating a culture that supports good mental health and clearly outline your commitment in supporting and fostering an environment of good Mental Health.

How do you communicate your commitment to Mental Health?

  1. First, communicate the Workplace Mental Health and Safety Policy to your workers and all members on the farm.
  2. Post the Workplace Mental Health & Safety Policy with resources in obvious places throughout the farm and perhaps send home the information with paystubs.
  3. Ensure workers understand what mental health and psychological safety entails.
  4. Educate the management group on Workplace Violence and Harassment Regulations for the workplace as well as human rights to ensure they understand their regulatory requirements.
  5. Create a culture of mental health in all levels of employees on the farm.
  6. Determine if owners and managers are suitably trained and competent in making good decisions as it relates to supporting mental health.
  7. Educate managers on the difference between mental health and performance management.
  8. Ensure conflicts are dealt with expediently in order to prevent the situation from getting worse.
  9. Implement hazard controls for physical and emotional concerns.
  10. Keep a tracking system to determine how much mental illness costs on your farm.

Work-related mental illness such as anxiety, stress, and depression have become as costly as physical work-related injuries and are becoming much more common.  According to Dr. Martin Shain of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, $11 billion could be potentially saved if mental illness could be prevented in the workplace.  This money could be saved in the form of productivity, recruitment and retention, cost reductions due to lower disability rates and absenteeism rates, fewer number of conflicts/incident/injury and operational efficiency.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada about 8% of workers reported mental health problems to their managers or supervisors.  As well, only 34% of workers stated that their workplace offered readily accessible services and tools to help workers cope with mental health issues.

Communication of your commitment to mental health and making resources available on your farm is key to increasing your farms sustainability through human resources.


  1. Mental Health Commission of Canada


Worker health is key in creating an engaged work force and becoming a sustainable farm.  It forms a large part of employee participation and contribution from the workforce.  Ill health can generate many losses on the farm including decreased morale due to absenteeism, decreased productivity, reduced quality of work, incomplete tasks, time spent on other activities such as extended breaks and booking necessary medical appointments, increased injuries , temporary labour, overtime, as well as conflict among employees due to stress of trying to compensate for the losses.  The Farm Sustainability Assessment Tool code FSA104 speaks to regular medical checks for workers that have a higher risk of health issues associated with their work.  For example, those who work with chemicals, apply pesticides, work in dusty environments, do heavy lifting, and find the work stressful.

Health promotion is designed to help develop a lifestyle to move towards a balanced state of optimal health which includes the physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual health of workers. Workers are motivated to increase their well-being and will participate in routine medical exams, obtain vaccinations and immunizations, annual eye exams, general fitness, psychological awareness, and strive to learn more to achieve optimal health.

Early diagnosis and treatment can improve worker health by lessening the severity of the condition and perhaps shortening the duration of the illness.  Promoting blood pressure monitoring, weight management programs, cholesterol screening, hearing tests, and screening for other particular illness are key activities in doing this.

Do you have a way to communicate ways to help monitor the health of your workers?  Protect your human resources by implementing a communicating good health today.

Use the following resources to help communicate the importance f good health on the farm:

  1. Farm Family Support Centre: or 1-844-880-9142
  2. Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team: 902-429-8167
  3. For non-emergency health information and services: 8-1-1
  4. Public Health
  5. Healthy Communities
  6. Healthy Development
  7. Provincial Programs

Don’t Soil Your Safe Reputation – Implement a Farm Safety Plan!

Finally, the day you have been waiting for, access to great resources to start or continue to put together your Farm Safety Plan.

Over the last few weeks I have been dropping little hints and tips on what to add into your Farm Safety Plan and information on how to get started through the Sustainability Series postings on the Farm Safety Nova Scotia website and through Social Media.  To see what you may have missed, follow the Sustainability Series posts.  While you are on the website, take a look at the Farm Safety Plan Guide on how to start or continue building your own Farm Safety Plan.  To access the Workbook templates that accompany the Farm Safety Plan Guide, type Workbook into the search engine at the top of the Farm Safety Nova Scotia webpage and the workbook templates will populate or look at the index at the right of the page and click workbook at the bottom of each Farm Safety Plan section.

The Workbook templates are organized by section of the Farm Safety Plan Guide and numbered according to the references in the guide.  Feel free to download the Workbook templates and edit them to suit you own particular farm culture.  Once you have a few templates built, communicate the information to your workers and start living the Farm Safety Plan.

If you wait until you think your Farm Safety Plan is complete, workers could be missing out on some great tools to use on the farm that will help them go home in the same condition they went to work.

I find the Farm Safety Plan is a work in progress.  We change it to add in something new and great or we change it to more suit the farm needs and culture.  A Farm Safety Plan is a living document and as you learn more about safety, new content can be added and communicated to your workers.

The more the Farm Safety Plan evolves the better the farm becomes at preventing incident and injury and will become more sustainable farm.

If you prefer printed copies of the Farm Safety Plan Guide and Workbook documents call 902-893-2293 or e-mail to request a printed copy.

Personal Protective Equipment

We are about half way through the Sustainability Series, and you may have started building a Farm Safety Plan and governing your organization using the Farm Sustainability Assessment.  In part of those two things, you may have started to identify hazards, created a risk management program, and implemented hazard control measures while at the same time involved your workforce to improve employee engagement which in turn will all create a sustainable farm.

To keep employees engaged, provide employees with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for each task they perform.  Personal protective equipment is a type of hazard control and in the hierarchy of hazard controls, it is last as it is the least reliable control.  Elimination, engineering and administrative controls are much more effective in controlling hazards.  Personal protective equipment is the last line of defence but it is the first thing to put on before starting work.   Hazards must be evaluated for the potential incident and injury they could cause in order to determine the correct personal protective equipment to be used for the task.  PPE is not one size fits all.  Read instructions that come with the personal protective equipment to ensure it is not only adequate for the task but also if it will fit the person wearing it correctly and it is comfortable.  If the PPE used is not for the task or of incorrect size it can create a new hazard.  Personal protective equipment needs to be cleaned, maintained and stored according to manufacturers specifications.

Types of personal protective equipment that may be worn on the farm are steel toed footwear, safety glasses, face shields, various types of gloves, hearing protection, high visibility clothing, fall protection and respirators, to name a few.  Check to see if the personal protective equipment you are required to wear meets the CSA or ANSI standards in Part 3 of the occupational health and safety general regulations.  Manufacturers manuals may also specify particular types of PPE to be worm when using machines or equipment.

When workers are wearing the correct personal protective equipment, it may reduce the injuries and occupational illness that a worker can suffer when they are inadequately protected.  Reducing occupational injuries and illnesses also reduces the costs associated with such events and therefore will increase the bottom line on the farm and improve employee morale which pushes your further to being a more sustainable farm.


  1. Code FSA99 Farm Sustainability Assessment Tool (
  2. CSA/ANSI Standards for PPE.
  3. Part 3 of the Occupational Health and Safety General Regulations.
  4. Manufacturers specifications for specific personal protective equipment.

Model Mental Health and Safety Policy

On Sept 10th in the “You Can Have Both – Mental & Physical Health” post, it notes a survey conducted by Morneau Shepell, where they found that 33% of Canadian employees are now suffering or have suffered from a mental health condition, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.  And another 27% are experiencing significant symptoms of stress.  Of those surveyed, 58% said their productivity has been negatively impacted by stress at work, while 45% said they have thought about leaving their job due to workplace stress and the impact it was having on them.

In the “10 Tips for Improving Mental Health on the Farm,” Tip #1 suggested including a commitment to mental health.  A Workplace Mental Health & Safety Policy can outline a simple commitment of mutual respect, confidentiality and cooperation amongst all workers on the farm including volunteers, visitors, suppliers, and contractors.  Click the link to download the sample policy and adapt it to your Farm and include it in your Farm Safety Plan.

The purpose of the policy is to layout an expectation in writing to prevent workplace stressors and psychological harm on the farm.  Involve the owner of the farm, managers, and workers in developing or reviewing the policy to promote a culture of positive mental health on the farm, show support, and offer resources to affected workers.

List available resources directly in the policy so workers can easily find them.  Farmers and workers may feel there is still a stigma in regards to mental illness and feel as though coming forward may have a poor impact on them in the workplace.

Once you had a chance to review and adapt this policy to your farm, we will look at communicating the Mental Health and Safety policy to your team and others who may also be on the farm.


Sample Policy: Workplace Mental Health and Safety

Safe Work Practices and Written Work Procedures

Further to our focus on safety orientation and training in building a sustainable farm, safe work practices and written work procedures are a key resource to be used when employees perform hazardous tasks such as operating a forklift, tractor, and/or skid steer, applying pesticides, using elevated work platforms, and refueling equipment.  Safe work practices and written work procedures are a type of administrative hazard control.  Once you have identified the hazardous tasks on your farm, and performed a risk assessment, developing a safe work practice and written work procedure is part of the hazard control process for that particular task.

Section 4  of the Farm Safety Plan speaks to the development of safe work practices and written work procedures.  Section 4:4 of the workbook gives examples of safe work practices and written work procedures that you may be able to adopt and adapt for the operations on your farm.  Safe work practices are the do’s and don’ts of the hazardous tasks.   Written work procedures are the step by step instructions on how to perform the hazardous task.  More detail should be listed in the written work procedure for tasks that have been evaluated as a higher risk for incident and injury.  To make lighter work of developing a safe work practice and written work procedure, use the task hazard analysis template from section 3:6 of the workbook.

September Balance Newsletter

Check out the latest Balance newsletter from Morneau Shepell! It features articles on how to be happy, taking control of your career and more!

10 Tips for Improving Mental Health on the Farm

The Mental Health Association of Canada recently published some tips for psychological health and safety by Dr. Merv Gilbert, a consultant and occupational health psychologist.

10 Tips for Improving Mental Health on the farm:

  1. Make mental health as much a priority as physical health. Develop a program to include your commitment to mental health as you would for physical health and communicate the program to workers.
  2. Keep track of the impact mental health has on the farm. Track absenteeism, lost time days due to disability, costs of benefits and evaluate this information for trends.
  3. Identify the risks that affect mental health on your farm. Mitigate the risk to prevent mental health concerns.
  4. Identify and control mental health hazards on your farm such as bullying and harassment.
  5. Provide ample information and resources to help identify problems in the early stages of mental illness. The earlier the intervention, the less likely the mental health distress evolves into a more serious condition or disability.
  6. Receive training and train others on the farm on how to recognize mental health distress and have the resources available to offer workers the help they may need such as the Farm Family Support Centre (1-844-880-9142.)
  7. Review your current health and safety program with a focus on mental health. Is there adequate information and resources available?
  8. Keep workers with mental health issues in the workplace, if possible. The longer workers are absent form work with disability, the harder it is to get them back in the workforce.  Keeping workers engaged in the workplace improves mental health as well as there is a vast support system then what may only be available only at home.
  9. If a worker needs to be away from work, communicate with them on a regular basis, allow them to feel supported. Have a plan in place to allow for the worker to gradually return to work when it is safe to do so
  10. Once learning of mental health issues in the work place, review the causes for concern and implement controls for prevention. Keep an eye out to ensure reoccurrence of disorders can be either prevented or recognized early in order to implement early intervention.

A mental health program can be as simple as a few resources to give to workers for them to access help and a commitment on paper to show your support.   You can build from there.


  1. Progressive Agriculture Safety Days

    October 25 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  2. NSFA Annual General Meeting

    November 28 @ 8:00 am - November 29 @ 5:00 pm
  3. Farm Safety NS Annual Meeting

    November 29 @ 11:30 am - 12:00 pm

Contact Us

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