OFA reminds members of their responsibility for a safe harvest on the roads by: Brent Royce, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

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As the fall season approaches and some normalcy returns to our daily lives, the pace of traffic has picked up. School buses are back on their routes, commuters are home from summer vacation and back to work, and as farmers, some of us are already back on the road with harvest equipment.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) reminds equipment operators of the responsibility of abiding by road safety rules, including the increased use of lighting and signage. Being proactive rather than reactive can be the difference between another day on the job and a dangerous accident. Doing our part as farm equipment operators increases our visibility and creates more awareness among motorists on the road who aren’t accustomed to encountering farm equipment.

Some farm implements, wagons and tractors across Ontario still lack proper lighting, reflective gear and up-to-date signage which is necessary to avoid road accidents. We encourage our membership to recognize the role and responsibilities we have to keep the roads safe.

As an organization, we are lucky to have county and regional representatives across the province to ensure pressing farming issues are considered and addressed. Specific to road safety, OFA’s Member Service Representatives (MSRs) are engaging with local federations on the increased awareness of Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs and sharing the road with farm equipment. Through the OFA Revive Fund, county and regional federations have gained the opportunity to develop campaigns, initiatives and projects focused on road safety in an effort to make a difference in their region.

In Huron County, the local federation is collaborating with grain elevators for this year’s harvest season. Pending supplies, from September to December, the Huron County Federation of Agriculture (HCFA) is promoting the use of SMV signs by distributing them through local grain elevators. These signs are also reflective for an extra element of safety. Elevator staff can flag the absence of signage or worn signage on equipment and wagons that come through and distribute these signs for free. The intent is to provide open communication and explanation of the meaning and importance of this signage on social media platforms as well as local publications. This information serves our farming community as well as education for those who do not operate farm equipment but may encounter it on the road.

The Leeds County Federation of Agriculture (LCFA) and Grenville Federation of Agriculture (GFA) have also teamed up to implement an educational road sign campaign. These county federations are purchasing additional roadside ‘Caution Farm Equipment’ signs and ‘Horse and Buggy’ signs to place along major roadways in Leeds and Grenville counties. The focus is to not only increase awareness of farm traffic on roadways, but also to educate travellers on the difference between farm equipment and regular vehicles.

Engagement and support from local police departments and municipalities has enhanced the power of these campaigns and helped to spread the messaging further than the agricultural echo chamber. OFA’s Revive Fund has provided an excellent medium to facilitate these campaigns and OFA is proud of the federations that have initiated these road safety initiatives. Hopefully the increased use of signage can spread across the province to help protect both rural and urban drivers. We care about the safety of everyone on the roadways and recognize the importance of shared responsibility to ensure we all return home safely.

As leaders in the Ontario agriculture community, it’s important that we all continue to take initiative and improve the situation. These campaigns offer an opportunity for non-farming community awareness, in addition to peer education among the farming population. When it comes to safety, training, reminders and extra precautions to prevent avoidable accidents on roadways are time well spent. This approach can be successful in yielding a long-term impact by increasing the consistent use of signage and providing education that resonates.

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