A Unique Approach to Engage the Agricultural Community

Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance (PASA), a public awareness enhancement program, began in 2015 when a group of utility operators came together to find a better way to engage the agricultural community. Professional educators employed by extension services at land-grant universities were identified as a farmer’s most trusted source of information. PASA teamed up with the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) to help spread the safe digging message to this group. There are currently more than 3,000 NACAA members in 47 states, covering nearly 3,000 U.S. counties. Ag agents have over two million interactions with farmers each year.

PASA works hard to improve communication, help reduce damages, and help protect the agricultural community. Using the theory “educating the educator,” PASA created a model to empower the communication conduit and trusted source of information for farmers, providing beneficial safety information that can be shared year-round. With a goal of transforming ag agents into safe digging advocates, PASA communicates with agents monthly to ensure safety is top-of-mind by coordinating local safety education, addressing key issues facing the industry, and targeting locations where damages occur more frequently.

Over the years, PASA has measured agent engagement to identify areas of success and improvement. From 2017-2019, for example, there was a 40% increase in in the identification of fence building and/or repair as an excavation activity instead of farming. There was a 14% increase from 2017-2019 in the identification of tree and/or stump removal as excavation instead of farming, and a 14% increase in sharing the Call Before You Dig message 1-2 times in the last 12 months.

Extension agents have an array of communication channels. Providing safety information in multiple formats allows agents to select the most effective and efficient channels for their clients. In 2019, for example, a Facebook post on the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension page from one of their extension agents included a safe digging infographic, noting “Every Dig Counts”. This was in response to a PASA newsletter mentioning a nearby water line that had been damaged down the road from the agent. Another example of agent advocacy occurred in 2019 when a Colorado ag agent reminded organizers setting up a tent during a wildfire to call 811. In the same year, an on-the-spot safe digging radio interview took place with a West Virginia agent.

The interview was shared in an area where pipeline activity was taking place.

So why does the program work?

• Engagement

• Measuring effectiveness and learning from it

• Shaping the right message to fit the audience

• Finding the trusted source

• One safety advocate has a massive impact

One person behind the safety message has the power to spread the information to their network of contacts, including peers and clients. It is a domino effective that results in multiple safety advocates helping protect agricultural professionals, communities, the environment, and utilities.

For more information about PASA, visit PipelineAgSafetyAlliance.com.

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