Local dairy farms prioritize workplace safety
Workplace safety has always been a priority and core value of New York’s family-owned businesses. When working with large animals that require 24/7 care, safety protocols and best management practices above and beyond your typical 9-5 desk job are required.
National Farm Safety and Health Week takes place this time of year because we’re heading into peak harvest season. It’s important now more than ever, to have frequent check-ins and pre-harvest meetings so everyone can plan and prepare for long days.
At Adirondack Farms, the health and safety of our employees and our cows have been our farm’s top priority since day one, long before the coronavirus pandemic. And, as a director of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, I can attest to the value of the safety and health of our essential workforce, who are integral to New York’s dairy farms. The pandemic has only heightened the importance of communication and safety protocols and their role in protecting the most important aspect of our business — our people.
During National Farm Safety and Health Week from Sept. 17-23, we recognize all of the important dairy industry partners working regularly with our farm and other family farms across the state to promote a safe and healthy working environment for our staff and our cows. The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) is one of those key industry partners, which works under the Bassett Healthcare Network. NYCAMH provides bilingual safety training for farmworkers and managers, including respiratory training, fit testing, stress and mental health services, health screenings, and other technical assistance relating to the well-being of our staff. NYCAMH’s highly qualified safety specialists provide on-farm training at no charge, which is an invaluable resource for our industry.
At Adirondack Farms, we conduct many annual trainings, including animal handling, skid steer operation, truck and tractor safety, and manure handling to name a few. These trainings allow us to gather the entire team together, strengthen our camaraderie, and most importantly, review critical safety protocols and updates. This keeps everyone informed of the latest requirements enforced by regulatory agencies such as OSHA and the Department of Labor. Over the years, we’ve also welcomed expert trainers from NYCAMH and other industry partners to provide bilingual support and health services to our workers.
Other safety protocols in place on our farm include a comprehensive employee onboarding process that covers all of our health and safety procedures. This includes topics ranging from how to safely care for the cows to equipment operation, maintenance, and cleaning. In addition to proper safety training and equipment maintenance, we encourage our employees to focus on hydration, nutrition, and rest.
Our large field equipment has reflective tape and signs to caution other drivers of slow-moving vehicles when they’re on the road. These warning signs are important as tractors, silage trucks, and choppers travel from the fields to the farm more often throughout the fall months. We also require visitors to stop in at the main office and encourage wearing reflective gear or bright clothing when traveling around the property no matter what time of the year it is.
Employees always have a means of communication on them, whether it be a phone or truck radio because it’s important our staff can communicate at all times. Personal protective equipment is also essential to employee health and safety. While working in the parlor and in the barns, our employees wear proper footwear. We also provide aprons and gloves to be used in the parlor. In the barn, goggles, ear protection, and gloves are provided to protect employees when trimming cow hooves.
When you visit a family dairy farm, you will see best management practices in place at every turn. New York’s farmers have a passion for feeding our communities, caring for our animals, and protecting and preserving our environment. And in order to do our jobs to the best of our ability, the health and well-being of our team comes first. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Shane St. Cyr is the director of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association and co-owner of Adirondack Farms in Peru, Clinton County.