The cows are happy in California; so are well-trained and hazard-aware dairy workers. If you work with dairy animals or work in and around dairy operations, make sure you’ve been trained to recognize potential hazards and prevent possible injuries or illnesses. Get training on specific safe work practices for each task, material, and equipment. Know what personal protective equipment (PPE) you should wear for certain jobs and what safety precautions to follow when handling chemicals or when in areas of hazardous atmospheres.
Most dairy worker injuries include strains and sprains, fractured bones, slips, trips, and falls, and animal-related illnesses. When disturbed, cows and bulls can move quickly with lots of momentum and weight. Know what causes animals to react violently; separating cows from the bull, protective cows with newborns, and/or cows in pain. Have escape routes and protected alcoves in corrals and fences. Approach cows from the front to avoid a kick. Wear sturdy work boots to protect your feet from kicks, getting stepped on, and falling objects. A slip resistant sole can prevent slips, trips, and falls around wet and muddy fields and work areas.
Use special caution around gates and fences when animals are near. Crowd gates and entry/exit gates powered by hydraulic rams, air cylinders, or electric motors can close forcefully, so keep your hands, feet, and body out of the closing points. Position yourself so that you cannot be trapped between a fence and gate pushed by passing cows.
Watch your hands! Wear sturdy work gloves when handling animals, but take them off around moving machinery. Don’t lay your fingers or hands on milk pit curbs; cows could step on them or kick them. Keep hands and body off of gate and fence boards that cows could lean or brush up against. Watch your fingers around automatic milking units; they can cause injuries if your hand is in the wrong spot.
Half of dairy worker fatalities are from motor vehicle accidents. Take a driver safety course and always wear your seatbelt. Follow tractor safety rules to avoid tip overs and runaways. Don’t ride on tractor fenders; ride only in a designated seat with a seatbelt. Don’t ride on hay trailers; stop the trailer completely and broadcast hay.
You can develop respiratory problems from breathing urine and feces-soaked dust, so keep the yard and dairy floor cleaned up. Handle and store waste materials to prevent blowing debris and odor buildup. Use proper silage and composting so that wet and fermented feeds and grasses do not build up mold. Wash your hands frequently and before you eat, drink, or smoke to prevent animal-related disease transmission.
Follow the use and mixing directions for cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. Wear rubber aprons and gloves to protect your clothes and skin. Chronic exposure to chemicals over the long term can lead to skin sensitivities. Wear safety goggles and face shields to protect against accidental splashes. Hot water can scald you and create fumes when chemicals are added.
Ensure wastewater lagoon and manure pit guardrails are in place. Enclosed manure pits should be treated as confined spaces due to the danger of being overwhelmed by fumes. Have rescue crews and equipment available if an emergency arises. Check haystacks for leaning to avoid having them fall and engulf workers. And finally, know whom to call and what to do in case of an injury or medical emergency.
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The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.
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