Train Dairy Workers to Recognize Hazards

September 24, 2009 07:00 PM
By Catherine Merlo

Involve your employees in finding ways to make your dairy safer.
A New York dairy producer dies from crushing injuries sustained while loading cows.

A Minnesota producer dies after being attacked by a bull.

A Wisconsin producer dies 15 days after an all-terrain vehicle rolls over him.

These dairy fatalities are just a few of the hundreds documented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the federal agency responsible for researching and making recommendations to prevent work-related injuries and illness.

Together, these accidents not only underscore the dangers of working with large animals and heavy equipment, but also highlight the need to train employees to recognize the hazards of their workplace.

Rick Adams knows about the toll of dairy accidents. An owner of Winton-Ireland, Strom & Green, an insurance agency in Turlock, Calif., Adams has specialized in agribusiness insurance for more than 25 years.

"Agriculture ranks as one of the most dangerous jobs, along with construction, and accidents with cattle rank as No. 1,” Adams says. He's seen enough work-related injuries to know one thing: Employees—not just you, the employer—are responsible for their own safety.

The amount of a claim is just a fraction of the overall cost of a work injury, Adams adds. Productivity and efficiency are also negatively affected.

Keeping your dairy safe starts with understanding how adults learn. "Ten percent of learning comes from reading, 20% from hearing, 30% from seeing—and 90% from doing,” Adams says. "That's why you need to involve your workers in safety training.”

Adams offers these tips:
  • Have competent employees look for unsafe conditions and create a safety checklist.
  • Ask your local Red Cross to come out to your dairy to conduct CPR and first-aid training.
  • Conduct training on cattle handling. Allow employees to practice and demonstrate proper techniques.
  • Conduct investigations after any accidents and near misses to learn why they happened.
  • Study actual injuries from your dairy. Ask employees what could have been done to prevent them.


There are four common types of animal handling injuries, according to the Cornell Agricultural Safety and Health Program:

1. Animal steps on handler.

2. Animal slips and falls on handler.

3. Animal pins handler against barrier.

4. Animal kicks handler.

To prevent these accidents and injuries, animal handlers should:
  • Move calmly and deliberately.
  • Avoid quick movements or loud noises that may startle animals. Make a cow aware of your approach before getting too close to her.
  • Don't alter the daily routine or the cows' living conditions. Animals often balk at anything out of the ordinary.
  • Always leave an escape route when working in close quarters with animals.

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