The Idaho Dairy Worker Training and Safety Program has been almost three years in the making. A few years ago, the Idaho Milk Processor’s Association (IMPA) came to the table with Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA) to develop a program to benefit the Idaho dairy industry.
This new program is designed to provide Idaho’s dairy workers with ongoing job training, while improving safety awareness — from employee to owner. A lot of our early success comes from the collaborative relationship between IDA and IMPA and being able to offer this for free.
Building on 15 years
We are working closely with New Mexico State University’s Robert Hagevoort and the University of Texas’s David Douphrate. Both have been working in dairy safety for the better part of 15 years.
IDA has taken their unique M-learning resources and applied them on Idaho dairies. This consists of using a set of iPads to facilitate one-on-one education in English, Spanish, or Guatemalan.
Agriculture is statistically the most dangerous industry. The competitive labor environment heightens these challenges. There are improvements we can make and trainings we can do to begin to shift the culture of dairy workers and owners.
The trainings we do are focused on not telling workers how to do their jobs but instead helping to build safety awareness. We need to make sure the message delivered is, “We want everyone to get home safely at the end of the day.” The goal of the program is to create a safer interaction between workers and cows and educate employees on general farm safety topics such as electricity, PTO’s, equipment safety, and so forth.
On the dairy
The training is well-received by employees and owners. For employees, it shows owner commitment to safety — especially when owners or top-level management train alongside their workers (as we recommend). Employees have enjoyed learning safety ideas around the farm and how cows perceive workers.
For owners this is one less thing on their plate. After every session the dairyman receives a training summary, outlining topics covered in the training as well as sign-in sheets to document attendance. The employee in return receives a training certificate.
Over 1,000 strong
To date, we have trained about 1,000 dairy employees in Idaho representing 35 dairies and 13 percent of the dairy workforce in Idaho. We have hosted a “Train the Trainer,” had a summer intern, and worked with several groups to share what we are doing. Being first to market with something like this has generated lots of positive attention. IDA is already playing a key role in developing a safety manual that will be part of the NMPF FARM (National Milk Producers Federation’s Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program. My mission is to help Idaho’s dairymen improve the safety culture on their dairies while providing customers assurance that our workforce is working in a safe environment and is well-trained.