Bulls probably pose the greatest danger on dairy farms due to their unpredictability.
Bulls, heavy machinery and slippery manure pits all pose hazards
There can be many dangers when working on a dairy, from working with machinery to animals.
Because accidents, injuries and even deaths have occurred on dairies, it is essential to stress safety with employees, says Gerald Higginbotham, ruminant business manager with California Micronutrients and former dairy advisor with the University of California Extension.
Higginbotham suggests dairy owners and managers utilize these safety precautions:
1 Stay on guard around animals. "Dairy bulls are not to be trusted, in spite of their docile appearance," Higginbotham explains. "They can move quite rapidly and with force." Designated escape exits located in fences or corrals should be made known to all workers.
A cow with a newborn calf can be very defensive when the calf is removed from the pen. Cows have a panoramic field of vision, but they can’t see behind their rear legs. Sudden movements or noises from behind can provoke them to kick. Cows generally kick forward and outward to the side.
2 Keep alert in the milk barn. The force of crowd gates and entry/exit gates powered by hydraulic rams, air cylinders or electric motors must be respected.
Avoid being trapped between a fence and an opening gate pushed by passing cows. Fingers and hands that are resting on milk pit curbs can be stepped on or kicked by cows.
If feed augers are used to convey grain to cows in the milking barn, use caution around moving parts if it is necessary to unjam stuck feed. Small children in the milking area can cause distractions and injuries. Overly loud radios can mask noises of malfunctioning equipment or cries for help.
3 Take precautions when cleaning. "Chemicals for cleaning milking equipment are safe, if label directions are followed," Higginbotham says. "Proper amounts and mixing procedures are very important."
Rubber or plastic aprons and gloves can protect clothes and skin, and eye shields and face masks are recommended. Dangerous fumes will result from adding caustic chemicals to hot water or adding chlorine to acid rinses. Scalding hot water should also be considered a hazard.
Teat dips, as well as cleaning chemicals, can cause allergic reactions in some people and gloves are advised. All workers should know locations of the electrical main, gas and water valves, and release valves on hot water heaters.
4 Pay attention when operating equipment. Belt-driven compressors, vacuum pumps and PTO shafts should have guards placed over and around them. "Be mindful that loose clothing may easily get caught in any moving equipment part, which could cause the loss of a limb," Higginbotham says.
Mixer trucks or wagons must be off and the starter locked out before entering the mixer box. Silage "avalanches" have resulted in deaths as well as serious injuries, including permanent spinal cord damage. For silage removal, use a loader with a roll-over protection cover (ROPS) cab, or, at a minimum, a ROPS with side screens. This will provide some protection for the operator if an avalanche occurs. Let other workers know about the dangers of being in close proximity to the face of the silage.
Holding pens can be dangerous if parlor workers unexpectedly move the crowd gate forward, trapping a colleague between cows and pipe rails.
5 Use extreme caution in manure storage areas. Many dangers can exist around manure storage areas. Toxic gases produced from these areas can pose a health threat to humans and animals. Deaths occur every year on dairies where dairy employees work around manure storage facilities. An air respirator is recommended for those who may need to enter manure containment areas. "Always use the buddy system so as to have someone call for help if the need arises," Higginbotham adds.
6 Be prepared. Taking the proper precautions and knowing what to do in case of emergency can prevent accidents and injuries. "All persons working on the dairy should have a basic knowledge of first aid and where first aid kits are located," Higginbotham says. "All should be instructed on when to dial 911."
- June/July 2013