Farmers and farm workers have a dangerous job: they're eight times more likely to die on the job and be injured at work. Injuries are especially high when working with livestock. Contact with animals, exposure to infectious diseases, working with machinery, loud noises, and repetitive motion all contribute to injuries, illnesses and fatalities related to dairy production.
We surveyed small-to medium-sized Minnesota dairy farms (under 500 cows) and found that smaller operations did not have access to worker safety resources. In fact, only half of dairy workers received training related to safety and injury, and approximately 20% suffered at least one injury in the previous 12 months. Another complicating factor is the employment of Hispanic workers. These workers usually have no livestock experience which puts them at a greater risk for injury. All of this suggests that worker safety and injury prevention training is needed on all operations including small and medium sized dairies.
To address this, a "team approach" is needed.
As part of an initiative led by the University of Minnesota's Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) center, we are identifying key partners in creating a health and safety team on dairy farms. Veterinarians can serve as one key part of the overall team. They have a broad understanding of One Health principles especially with regards to human-animal interactions. Veterinarians can work with and train producers,herd managers, and workers to ensure animal welfare and a healthy work environment.
This focus fits with many agriculture quality assurance programs such as the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program. FARM stated goal is to "take the very best care of cows and the environment, producing safe, wholesome milk and adhering to the highest standards of workforce development." We need to encourage a broader approach to create a safe work environment for cattle and humans; veterinarians can be part of that Safety Team.
UPPER MIDWEST AGRICULTURAL SAFETY AND HEALTH