Effective Management For Keeping Employees Safe
Posted on November 5, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
It’s no secret that farming is a dangerous occupation. According to Dr. David Douphrate, University of Texas School of Public Health, “agriculture is among the most dangerous and accounts for a large percentage of fatalities and injuries.”
During his presentation at the recent Dairy Calf and Heifer Conference, Douphrate explained that agriculture, forestry and fishing is the number one industry for nonfatal injuries in the workplace. According to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the non-fatal injury rate on dairy farms is 5.4 percent. Douphrate reminded attendees that this is based on farms with 10 or more employees. In other words, it doesn’t include small farms (80 percent of U.S. farms). The real rate is likely much higher.
Douphrate said, “OSHA requires all dairy employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace, free of recognized hazards and follow all applicable OSHA standards.”
All farms – regardless of farm size – are expected to follow standards set by OSHA. That means that all farms are liable for penalties if an incident occurs. In addition, farms with more than 10 employees are subject to inspections and penalties without an incident report.
Douphrate said that his role is to help producers understand OSHA requirements and offer resources for safety training and information on their farms. He said that keeping employees safe needs to be a top priority for all farms.
“If maximum production and quality is a priority, an owner or manager should commit themselves to build an effective safety program and integrating it into the entire dairy operation,” he said.
Douphrate said employers should train all employees and ensure compliance with safe and healthful work practices, which should include the following:
- Objectives for accident and illness prevention, similar to other performance metrics
- Emphasis on safety and health and recognition that employees are accountable for these responsibilities
- A system that encourages employees to report unsafe conditions and assures that management will act on those reports
- Resources available for identifying and controlling hazards, installing engineering controls, purchasing personal protective equipment, and promoting and training employees
Douphrate said he completely understands that a dairy producer is more than busy with many job responsibilities. That’s why he recommends farms appoint a safety director or coordinator who can address safety issues as part of his or her routine job responsibilities. This ensures that safety doesn’t get overlooked.
Specific OSHA standards can be difficult to understand. Nevertheless, Douphrate said producers need to be proactive in understanding requirements and providing a safe environment for their employees. He recommended producers visit http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/oshasoft/
for training resources.