Making ag saferGRAND FORKS, N.D. — A Devils Lake, N.D., man played a key role in a United Nations’ project that has implications for agriculture both worldwide and on the Northern Plains.
By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A Devils Lake, N.D., man played a key role in a United Nations’ project that has implications for agriculture both worldwide and on the Northern Plains.
Following the newly published Code of Practice for Safety and Health in Agriculture can help area farmers work a little safer — and possibly improve their chances of landing export sales, too, Paul Gunderson says.
“It can give them a leg up” when they compete for foreign sales, he says.
Gunderson, director of the Dakota Precision Ag Center in Devils Lake, helped to write Code of Practice. The 312-page code was published by the International Labour Organization, the U.N. agency that drafts and oversees international labor standards. The code is a framework, not a law, designed to improve working conditions.
Agricultural workers are exposed to risks, Gunderson says, and “The Code of Practice is intended to raise awareness of these risks and offer solutions to decrease the number of work-related injuries and illnesses among the people responsible for our global food supply.”
Gunderson chaired the Code of Practice’s author and review committee, which included government agency representatives, employers and workers from around the world.
Work began in 2008
Gunderson, who has a strong background in human health and farming, was contacted in late 2008 about becoming involved in the project.
As committee chairman, he helped coordinate the efforts of 27 people, who were split into three working groups. The committee held its meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, where the International Labour Organization has its headquarters.
“It’s a beautiful city,” Gunderson says.
He was able to balance his work at the Dakota Precision Ag Center with his involvement in writing the Code of Practice.
Gunderson and the others involved with the Code of Practice “reviewed every word, every line” that went into it, he says.
It was approved only after receiving unanimous agreement from participants, he says.
Some food-importing nations might be more likely to buy grain from countries where producers follow the Code of Practice, he says.
Better safety practices
North Dakota farmers generally follow the Code of Practice, he says. However, there’s room for improvement in several areas, including more hearing protection, covering PTO and drive shafts and keeping hydraulic hoses in good condition.
The Dakota Precision Ag Center is located on the campus of Lake Region State College in Devils Lake. Its funding comes from several sources, including the North Dakota Centers for Excellence initiative.
Gunderson notes that precision agriculture potentially can reduce fatigue, spinal exposure and stress associated with daily operation of ag equipment.
More information on the Code of Practice can be found on the International Labour Organization’s website, www.ilo.org. Type in “Code of Practice for Safety and Health in Agriculture” in the search function in the upper-right corner of the site’s homepage.