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Safety risk areas at the dairy farm

Umberto Francesa Published on 09 October 2010

High-traffic roads around facilities
On-farm traffic is a safety issue that changes continually. In general, it is a larger safety issue during the day than at night. It also increases during seasonal work, such as when corn is chopped and packed for silage. Agricultural equipment is bigger, more powerful, and found in greater numbers than ever before. Here are some safety tips:

1. Pay attention to children.
2. Avoid backing up.
3. Maintain a clean and functioning vehicle.
4. Turn the headlights on so others can see you.
5. Remember that conditions and the environment are always changing.
6. Always yield or give way to large machinery.

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Hazards in living facilities
Some safety issues can come with the housing that most farms provide to their employees. Some housing is under a scheduled maintenance program; however, there is always the risk that something might go wrong. The following are some examples: faulty or non-existent smoke alarms; carbon monoxide inhalation; fire or explosions caused by propane gas; and electric shock caused by exposed bare live wires.

Manure decomposition and gas inhalation
In barns that have had either a partial or a complete failure of the ventilation system, there is a real risk of inhaling toxic gases created by the aerobic fermentation of organic matter. This situation is life- threatening for people and animals in low-profile cross-ventilation (LPCV) systems – a ventilation failure could lead to a gas build-up that can kill people and cattle within one hour.
1. Have an emergency plan that deals specifically with this situation. Make sure that the plan is written in English and Spanish.
2. Carry out drills so that everybody learns how to respond during an actual situation.
3. The chance for a real disaster is high during weekends and nights, when upper-level management is absent.
4. Make sure either that the backup generator is ready to fire up automatically or that there is always someone with the proper training and know-how to start the generator.
5. Make sure that the telephone numbers of the manager and/or the mechanic are in a visible area so that they can be called immediately.
6. If the power is not back on within five minutes, open all doors, move outdoors, and wait for the manager to arrive.

Chemicals and veterinary drugs
A. Chemicals
Safely using, storing, and disposing of dairy chemicals is essential for the safety of workers and animals, and can prevent contamination of the surrounding environment. Chemical use is dangerous at any time, but a particular hazard is being exposed to a chemical that is concentrated.

Everyday work in a dairy exposes farmers and employees to a variety of chemicals.

Use caution when applying hydrated lime to freestalls. This compound is extremely caustic and reactive. When accidentally dusted into the eyes, flush thoroughly and quickly seek medical attention. All employees should wear protective eyewear and have their skin covered while working with hydrated lime.

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B. Inventory
Record all the chemicals you have on the farm, including type and quantity, and check that all chemical containers are correctly labeled and stored adequately. Make sure that bottles are not refilled with dangerous chemicals. Remove all unwanted, out-of-date, and banned chemicals from the dairy and dispose of them according to federal regulations.

C. Working with chemicals
When working with chemicals, personnel should take the time and protect themselves with the proper attire (e.g., coveralls, rubber gloves, goggles, respirators, footwear, etc.).

D. Transport and storage
• When not in use, all chemicals should be stored in a locked chemical locker or shed. Chemical storage should provide spill containment and be well-ventilated. Do not store chemicals in a work area such as the milk room.

• Chemicals used on the dairy should always be inaccessible to children, visitors, and inexperienced personnel. Preferably, keep chemicals behind a childproof barrier.

• Veterinary chemicals that require refrigeration should be kept in a separate refrigerator that is not used for drinks or food.

• Acids and alkalis should be clearly labeled and distinguished from each other. They should never be mixed together because mixing risks a violent reaction.

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• Have chemicals delivered to the farm by a professional and as part of the service; they can unload, handle, and store the chemicals in the designated area, keeping farm personnel from being involved in this task.

E. Decanting, mixing and use

• Mix chemicals in a ventilated area on a non-porous surface that can be readily cleaned, and with close access to clean water for washing spills, personal cleaning, or first aid.

• Pouring chemicals from a drum risks spills and splashing. It is far safer to use pumps, siphons, or gravity taps. There are also closed automated delivery systems.

• Install hand-held soft water showers. Place them where detergents are decanted and use them for removing chemicals from the eyes.

• The employer is responsible for providing, maintaining, and replacing, when necessary, all protective equipment. The employees are responsible for wearing protective equipment when working with chemicals.

F. Emergency calls
Every dairy farm should have a formal chemical management plan for dealing with chemical emergencies or spills. This plan should include emergency contacts and first aid.

Workplace rules for the use of chemicals should be enacted, and all workers should follow them. Those workers who need to use chemicals, particularly restricted chemicals, should be trained through a suitable program. Always ask yourself if a particular chemical is necessary, or if it can be replaced with other safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives.

First aid and emergency response
Farming is a dangerous occupation. We not only need to reduce the risks of injury, we must also put in place a plan that will ensure an effective response to an incident.

Dairy farm employees should know both what to do and how to seek help in case of emergency or accident. Develop an emergency response procedure in conjunction with your family and staff. Program occasional drills and learn from them.

Because many dairies are in isolated areas and it may take time for emergency medical assistance to arrive, it’s vital that dairy workers be trained in first aid and that these skills be supported by equipment that meets the needs of the workplace.

The dairy farm should have at least one first-aid kit and a first-response person who has the training to assist someone who has been hurt. This person should be known to all and should be responsible for keeping the first-aid kit up to date.

For infection control, first-aid kits should contain disposable resuscitation face shields and plastic gloves. A medical supply business should service the dairy’s first-aid kit(s) on a regular basis.

Select and send employee(s) to a first-response/first-aid training course; there are several levels of training, and continuing education is available. Not having someone on the dairy trained in first-aid response may have dire consequences. A worker who is seriously injured has the best chance for surviving if attended to immediately. While emergency medical assistance is en route, bleeding can be stopped or breathing can be assisted.

All workers on the farm must know how to contact the first-response person. This information must be taught upon hiring. PD

References omitted due to space but are available upon request to .

Excerpts from “Safety risk areas on the dairy farm”

Umberto Francesa
Project Assistant
South Dakota State University

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