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Safety risk areas in the barn and milking parlor

Umberto Francesa Published on 17 September 2010

Slips, trips and falls
These are the most common source of injuries in the workplace and make up the greatest number of workers’ compensation claims. Serious injuries include sprains and strains. Water or milk spills, algal build-up on concrete surfaces, oil spills in machine shop buildings, wet feed, and manure can all make a surface slippery.

Tripping can be caused by different floor levels, broken concrete, and obstacles – including uneven walking surfaces, protruding pipes and hoses, uncovered drainage holes, and badly designed steps.



In addition, people working on roofs and platforms or climbing equipment such as silos and milk tanks are at risk for falls. Here are some prevention rules to avoid slips, trips, and falls:

• Open drains or drainage holes should be covered with a firm, flush-fitting grate.

• When spills occur during transport, handling, or decanting of chemicals, milk, or oils, clean them up immediately.

• Updating lighting and ventilation in older facilities increases visibility, aids in floor drying, and inhibits algae growth.

• Hoses and others obstacles must be secured to walls and kept out of the way.


• Discourage the practice of using the bucket of a front-end loader instead of a ladder.

The feeding alley
Driving in and out of the feeding alley while employees are working with cows or while the maintenance crew is doing work along the mangers is always a challenge for the feeder. Poor visibility and noise make the feeder unable to see or hear other people. Feeding cows is a stressful job, and the feeder is always in a hurry in order to get the cows fed on schedule.

Employees must be aware of the feeder and take positions in the feeding alley where the feeder can see them. Here are some recommendations:

• When the feed truck is feeding cows, all work in the feeding alley should come to a temporary stop.

• Make sure when backing up that the workers in the alley stand back and stop working. A buzzer installed at the rear of the feeding truck is very useful to warn people when backing up.

• Keep the windshield and rear windows clean at all times.


• Keep all lights in working condition.

• To avoid skating and slipping when roads are icy, make sure that the tires are fitted with the proper attachment.

The hospital pen
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are transferable from animals to humans. It’s very important for those who treat cows on the farm both to take the necessary precautions when treating sick animals and to protect themselves and the animals from cross-contamination.

Diseases in dairy cattle like salmonellosis, brucellosis, anthrax, and leptospirosis can be transmitted through contaminated milk or by contact with blood, saliva, and urine. Human tuberculosis can be transmitted from humans to cows via airborne particles.

The effects of these diseases vary. Leptospirosis can cause severe flu-like symptoms. Salmonellosis can cause gastroenteritis and diarrhea.

Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted by contact with the urine and feces of cats and rats living on the farm and can affect human fetuses. The hospital pen and the treatment pen are highly contaminated areas that farm personnel must be aware of when working with cows.

• Unless properly protected, avoid contact with animal waste, carcasses, excretions, and offal.

• Promptly dispose of dead animals.

• Immediately treat and disinfect cuts, abrasions, and animal bites. If bitten, be certain of the animal’s rabies status.

• Maintain tetanus boosters.

• Always use the proper attire and wash and disinfect your boots and hands before and after treating cows.

• Discard used gloves, syringes, needles, empty drug containers, and so on.

• Hospital bedding pack should be cleaned out often.

• Farm personnel who do not have business in the hospital pen or treatment pen should avoid them.

• Avoid drinking raw milk from the farm at all times.

• Do not eat or smoke while working in these areas or performing these tasks.

Other diseases on the dairy farm that employees must be aware of are those caused by parasites and fungi (which could cause skin problems in humans): ringworm and lice are two examples. Deer ticks, often found near feed commodities, can transmit Lyme disease.

Working with barn machinery

Barn personnel
For those farm workers who work with machinery inside the barn, there are additional safety concerns. These concerns should be addressed when training on machinery, particularly the skid steer and those attachments used to spread bedding, rake stalls, push manure, and so on.

To avoid accidents it is very important for the operator to have been trained properly. The operator needs to know not only how to operate the equipment safely, but also how to perform basic maintenance and how to report when mechanical failure either has occurred or is about to occur.

Also, damage to property is always a concern – as the machine skids on these surfaces, gates, headlocks, stalls, and doors can be damaged.

Other personnel
The feeder is the other member of the dairy staff who works inside and outside the barn and faces considerable workplace safety risks. The feeder operates large and expensive machinery like the feed wagon and the pay loader. In addition, the feeder has to know basic computer skills in order to enter, withdraw, and print information referring to cows’ group rations. This stressful job needs to be performed on a tight schedule in order to achieve the best possible feeding consistency.

The milking center
The milking parlor is another place on the dairy where accidents could occur. Chemicals used for washing and cleaning equipment are potential hazards for employees, animals, and the environment. In addition, it is common practice to have footbaths in some areas of the return alley, and the chemicals used in these should be handled with precaution.

Working with dairy cows
Most of the dairy staff eventually has to move or help move cows around. Accidents can occur when moving cows. Cows rarely charge against somebody when working with them; however, heifers could run over you if they are cornered.

The cow pusher has to be careful when bringing cows in and out; opening and closing gates can cause personal injuries. Look for pinch points, protruding objects, and gates that can swing back or come off the hinges.

When working with cows in headlocks, make sure they are aware that you are behind them; they cannot always see you and can react and kick very fast.

When releasing individual animals from headlocks, one runs the risk of being crushed or having a finger pinched.

Another common hazard is the accidental inoculation of veterinary drugs during routine shots vaccines, such as hormones in the Ovsynch program. (Women should not administer shots in the Ovsynch program, especially if they are pregnant.) PD

Excerpts from “Safety risk areas on the dairy farm” South Dakota State University website