Six years ago, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) established a local emphasis program to protect workers from hazards found on dairy farms. This included areas related to manure storage, lack of vehicle rollover protection, machine guarding, confined spaces, and animal handling.
The opportunity for an OSHA inspection became a reality for a certain subset of dairy farms: those with more than 10 employees and those with a temporary labor camp at any time within the last 12 months.
Farms that don’t fit into one of those categories are not eligible for a visit from OSHA officials, but that does not mean they are exempt from OSHA’s rules. That was a point that Mary Bauer, OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist, made during an On-Farm OSHA Workshop hosted by the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association.
“If you have an employee, you have to follow OSHA’s rules,” she said. “You’ll just never be inspected.”
Bauer reminded the audience that immediate family members of the employer do not count as employees. That includes parents, spouses, and children. Step-children, foster children, step-parents, and foster parents also fall in this category. Other relatives, even if they live in the same household as the employer, do not count as immediate family. Bauer pointed out that grandchildren would be an example of this.
Whether or not your farm falls under OSHA’s size requirement for inspection, safety should be a top priority, for yourself and the people working for you. That is why following OSHA’s guidelines is important for farms of all sizes.
One part of safety is education. “Be sure your training is good,” Bauer said.
This includes training that is provided in the language of the employee. Quality of training is important, and Bauer emphasized that time does not equal quality. Some people learn better if they are actively involved in the training or are able to watch demonstrations. Bauer also reminded workshop attendees that there is a learning curve, and some employees will need continuous coaching to ensure a safe work environment for all.