Work safely in the winter
Hard work and a dairy farm go hand in hand, but we need to stay healthy to care for our families and our animals. Here are a few reminders for safe farm work in the winter.
Slips, trips and falls are one of the main sources of injuries on the farm.
1. Clean snow and ice buildup when necessary to prevent slipping.
2. Replace your worn-out footwear and wear winter walking traction devices (ice cleats, studs or chains) on areas that cannot be treated for ice. Take off your winter walking traction devices when walking across cleared concrete and decks since this can cause loss of traction.
3. Use the proper ladders when completing projects out of your reach and ensure the ladder is on even terrain. Treat areas around the ladder with salt or sand. Bulky clothes restrict movement, limit your body location awareness and may also change your center of gravity. Make sure you stay within the ladder’s rungs to prevent falling.
4. Keep areas of travel clean and free of obstructions.
5. Resist the urge to place tools, extra layers of clothing and equipment in your immediate work area, especially behind you. When you get up to rush to another task, you may forget about them and trip and fall.
6. Keep an eye out for spots where water puddles during the warmer portions of the day and freezes at dusk.
Preventing frostbite and hypothermia is key to staying healthy.
1. Wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing conditions.
2. Cover your head as up to 40% of body heat is lost when the head is exposed.
3. Wear at least three layers of clothing.
- The outer layer should break the wind and allow some ventilation (like Gore-Tex® or nylon).
- A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric absorbs sweat and retains insulation in a damp environment. Down is a useful lightweight insulator; however, it is ineffective once it becomes wet.
- An inner layer of synthetic weaves allows ventilation. Synthetic materials, such as Supplex® and Coolmax® are ideal because they keep you warm and dry.
4. Take frequent, short breaks in warm, dry shelters to allow the body to warm.
5. Drink warm, sweet beverages (ex. sugar water and sports drinks) to maintain your energy. Avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
6. Use lightweight gloves that allow for grip when handling metal and tools and larger insulated gloves with hand warmers when taking breaks.
Safely operate equipment.
1. Allow equipment to “warm up” before use.
2. Hydraulic lines are cold and take time to respond, so keep movements slow and deliberate until they are functioning at full capacity.
3. Icy and snowy conditions require slower speeds while operating equipment.
4. Ground freezes and thaws sometimes make equipment susceptible to tip-overs as the ground breaks away under the weight of the machinery.
5. Equipment always seems to be more susceptible to break downs during cold conditions. While you often have an urgent need to repair the equipment, it is not the biggest responsibility you have for the day. Take your time and follow the steps you need to keep yourself safe and healthy. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do for your family and animals.
About the author: Chris Belz is a Vita Plus safety manager. He develops, evaluates, and implements safety standards in compliance with federal regulations for all Vita Plus facilities and employee owners. He also trains employees on these safety standards and provides safety resources for customers and staff. Belz earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater as well as an advanced safety certificate from the National Safety Council. He brought 17 years of safety experience with him to Vita Plus.