New study focuses on dairy worker safety and health risks

All types of agricultural jobs are dangerous, and among the most risky is dairy work. The agricultural industry has the highest rate of worker injuries, occupational diseases and fatalities of any labor sector, and dairy work ranked second among all agricultural areas for injuries and fatal accidents. Studies of workers' compensation claims show that most workplace accidents at dairies involve truck or heavy equipment accidents and animal injuries.

As the dairy industry has changed and grown over the past few decades, operations have become larger and hired more workers -- which means that more farms are subject to regulation by OSHA and state worker safety agencies. Organizations that employ more than 10 people are required to ensure a safe working environment for their employees.

A paper presented at the recent national meeting of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association highlighted the worker safety issues on dairy farms and made suggestions for dairy farm operators who want to do a better job of promoting workplace safety. The paper, presented by David Douphrate of the University of Texas and Colorado State University, pointed out that the first and most important step in preventing workplace accidents, illnesses and fatalities is to make a safety plan.

Lack of an effective safety plan among the most common OSHA citations against dairy farms

According to Douphrate, the two main causes of worker injury and death on dairy farms are accidents involving heavy machinery and animal-related injuries. The most common types of machine-related injury were tractor rollovers, being struck by or run over by tractors, and entanglement in rotating shafts. The most common animal injuries included kicks, bites, and workers becoming trapped between large animals and fixed objects.

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