Severe weather season is approaching

This week I participated in a University of Minnesota workshop on worker safety issues related to the design and operation of animal agricultural facilities. One of the topics that arose in the discussion groups was the issue of severe weather at remote livestock sites.

This morning our local radio station was reminding us that 15 years ago on this date a F4 tornado tore through southern Minnesota and devastated the community of St Peter. They attributed the small death loss to the lengthy advanced warning to the community as the tornado approached.

All of this leads to my thoughts for this week – what is the severe weather plan for your swine unit/operation? I hadn’t thought much about this until this week but it is really something that we need to be aware of as we approach the season when severe weather is most likely to occur in the upper Midwest.

Depending on the size of the sow unit, there are often 10-15 people working in these facilities at any given time. Employees may or may not be aware of outside weather conditions as they concentrate on their daily activities. Who is responsible at the site for monitoring of conditions and warnings?

If a tornado were to develop in the area and be identified as approaching the unit, what is the safety plan for the employees? In most cases there isn’t a house on the site with a basement that they could gather in. Is there an identified location in the facility that has been identified as the best structural location to survive a direct hit by a tornado? Do all of the employees know of this location? How will you alert all employees, especially if you have a large production unit? If you have a plan, have you reviewed it with your employees this spring?

Finishing units now often sit on isolated sites some distance from homes with cellars, etc. What is the tornado safety plan for the site? Have you and/or your employees thought thru the most likely scenario that will prevent casualties or injuries in the event of a severe weather incident at the site?

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