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Online Agriculture Safety Training (OATS) adopted by Sun West School Division

According to the Saskatchewan Farm Injury Surveillance Program at the University of Saskatchewan, on average, 13 people are killed on Saskatchewan farms annually.  Most incidents occur in the farm yard and 75% of the fatalities involve machinery such as grain trucks, semis, tractors and combines and 14% involve youth.

Benjamin Franklin is generally credited with saying that that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and those in safety know that education, knowledge and awareness goes a long way when it comes to preventing injuries and fatalities. To that end, in February the Saskatchewan Safety Council launched the Online Agriculture Training System, or OATS, a high quality, interactive agricultural safety awareness training course. OATS is a general orientation for young or new farm workers and an excellent source of information for more experienced workers as it provides an overview of the health and safety hazards and risks on most farms.

Says Tanya Ringdal, Marketing and Business Development for Sun West Distance Learning Centre, “Encouraging safe workplace practices is a priority for all Sun West DLC agriculture courses.  We have adopted the Saskatchewan Safety Council's Online Agriculture Training System as a mandatory component of all courses in our agricultural strand.”

Based in Kenaston, Sun West Distance Learning Centre (DLC) is an online school that delivers web-based courses for Saskatchewan learners in Kindergarten through Grade 12.   With over 80 electives at the high school level, the DLC offers choice and flexibility in a way that is often unavailable in many of the province's smaller rural communities.  They currently offer eight agriculture courses for high school credit – Ag Tech Cow/Calf 10, 20, 30; Ag Tech Field Crop Production 10, 20, 30; and Ag Tech Equine Studies 10, 20 - with Equine 30 becoming available in January 2017.    

“The partnership between the Saskatchewan Safety Council and Sun West School Division is a really good fit”, explains Terri Kerbrat, Community Relations Coordinator for the Saskatchewan Safety Council. She goes on to say, “we developed OATS with young farm workers in mind so it really is gratifying to see it incorporated in the agriculture courses for high school credit. Sun West School Division has paved the way for other divisions to consider it for inclusion in their course materials as well and that is very exciting.”

The online format provides the use of interactive scenarios, visuals, audio and text-based learning in a self-paced environment. Users can save their progress and log in from multiple locations allowing them flexibility in completing the program. The entire course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and users receive a printable certificate upon successful completion. Thanks to the generous support of the Safety Council’s partners and sponsors, the program is fully online and completely free.

Also of note, the OATS program is one of four components of the Early Safety Training Program (ESTP), a more comprehensive certificate program offered by the Saskatchewan Safety Council. In its entirety, the ESTP includes the Young Worker Readiness Course, WHMIS, First Aid/CPR plus one other safety elective; OATS is one of the elective options. 

Since 1955, the Saskatchewan Safety Council, a non-profit registered charity, has been dedicated to the prevention of injury in Saskatchewan . . . at home, at play, and at work. Funded through donations, membership contributions, sponsorships, grants, and the distribution of its safety programs and materials, the revenues generated by the Safety Council are invested within the province of Saskatchewan to further promote safety.

The Safety Council’s roots in agriculture safety can be traced to 1962 with the formation of our Farm Division. Much of the early work of the Farm Division was to track, and report on, agriculture related injuries and deaths. Since its inception, the Farm Division took the lead in several farm safety groups and initiatives, following are few:

  • Created the Farm Safety Video Program which, over time, was renamed the Farm Safety Resource Library and expanded to include print and online resources
  • Developed and delivered four injury prevention workshops – Farm Safety Workshops for Women; Farm Safety for the Family; Farm Safety School Presentations; and the Pesticide Safety workshop
  • Implemented the Farm Safety Team, a group of teens and disabled farmers who were trained to deliver presentations. In 2000 the program was renamed, “Power PAC Farm Safety Team”. In the first year the team reached 8000 students in 134 schools. By the time the program wrapped up, three “Safety on the Farm” videos had been produced and over 1500 presentations on safety and injury prevention had reached more than 400,000 students in 300+ schools.

For more information, or to register for OATS, visit: www.sasksafety.org

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