April 2 2024 10:34 AM

Taking time to remind ourselves and others of the need to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings can make all the difference on a farm and in life.

I was paddling in the kayak yesterday with my four-year-old when my husband called out my safety mistake from the shore. We are extremely cautious with our children, so my son had on a life jacket. I, however, did not. My gut reaction was to resist and be annoyed that he was concerned about me, an adult and strong swimmer, in this small lake on a clear day.

But I quickly reminded myself that I was an example to our children and that there is no downside to wearing a life jacket. I hate being wrong, but I had to admit that he was right. I paddled us in, thanked him for the reminder, and quickly put one on.

Growing up on a dairy farm and staying in agribusiness throughout my adult life has meant that I have always been exposed to dangerous work environments. The downside, though, is that we can get too familiar or too comfortable. Hazards can be pushed to the periphery instead of being front and center. That is where it helps to have accountability in your family, friends, and colleagues. Create a safety culture and continuously remind each other of the expectations.

I am a productivity junkie if I am honest. I thrive on efficiency. However, fast and safe are not always aligned. I vividly remember one day while I was operating the chop saw that I started thinking about my next task. I pulled the blade down without paying attention. I had zero awareness of where my other hand was. Fortunately, my hand was not in the blade’s path. Still, the fact that I would just so easily pull a spinning, open blade down without focusing was a personal safety wake-up call.

We all have heard, seen, or maybe personally been impacted by farm and work incidents. The harsh reality is that, so often, they are preventable. A different choice could have had led to a different result. A few extra moments of focused awareness can make all the difference. We all know this. But sometimes, a gentle reminder that we matter from those around us can be just what we need.

Safety first; efficiency second. Be the example, but also be the reminder.

Erin Massey

The author grew up on a Florida dairy farm, obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida and has spent her career in dairy processing. She now serves as business development manager for North America with Bunge. Erin and her husband live in St. Louis, Mo., with their three children. Her personal mantra is “Be Bold.”