If you didn't know it already, farming is a dangerous job.
In 2009, national statistics show the highest fatality rate occurred in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sectors with 26 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is eight times the national average. From 2003 to 2009, a period of six years, a total of 110 people were killed while working on U.S. dairy farms.
Non-fatal injuries also rank high for agriculture. In 2009, national estimates for non-fatal injuries were 5.1 per 100 workers. Beef and dairy industries have even higher injury rates of 6.5 and 5.4, respectively.
To prevent these types of accidents from happening, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has rules in place that all dairy farms must follow to protect the health and safety of your employees.
Safety plan please
Every dairy farm, no matter where you are located, should have a written safety program in place. Although requirements may vary slightly by state, dairy farms must comply with state and/or federal guidelines.
Unfortunately, when it comes to safety plans, the dairy industry is hopelessly out of compliance, says Anthony Raimondo, agriculture labor law attorney with McCormick Barstow in Fresno, Calif.
You might feel your dairy farm is a safe place to work. You may even hold employee safety meetings or perform safety trainings. But if the program isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist, says Raimondo.
“Many people have components of a safety plan as their business culture, but if it’s not written out, it doesn’t count,” agrees Amy Wolfe, executive director of AgSafe. “OSHA wants to see you have a safety-management plan.”
OSHA rules apply to you
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), any dairy farm that employs 11 or more employees at any time during the previous 12-month period or offers temporary housing to employees during that period is subject to OSHA regulatory oversight. A dairy farm is exempt from all OSHA enforcement if the dairy farm employs 10 or fewer employees currently and at all times during the last 12 months and has not offered any temporary housing during the preceding 12 months.
Family members of farm employers are not counted when determining the number of employees for OSHA oversight. A part-time employee is counted as one employee.
It’s important to note that while dairy farms that employ 10 or fewer employees are exempt from inspection, they are not exempt from OSHA regulations.
States with OSHA-approved State Plans may enforce on small farms, provided that 100 percent state funds are used and the state has an accounting system in place to assure that no federal or matching state funds are expended on these activities. Currently, there are 25 OSHA-approved state programs.
“The bottom line is we want all farms to do what they can to create a safe environment for its workforce,” says Mary Bauer, an OSHA compliance assistant specialist. “All farm employers are obligated to comply with OSHA regulations — no matter what size they are.”