July 12 2017 08:00 AM

One split second changed the way I looked at safety on our farm.

Safety in the workplace is important for you, your animals, and your employees alike. Like many of you, my children often accompany me at work, and many times that means time in the milk barn. One experience changed the way I view workplace safety and whom I am keeping safe.

On our facility, we try our best to stay within all the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations so that our employees are as safe as possible. But one of these protocols seemed so ridiculous that I made the decision that it was not worth the effort. We were instructed to put guards over our milk pumps because they had a 2-inch opening leading to a high-speed rotating shaft that someone could get their finger caught in. Even though there is no possible reason anyone would ever need to have their hand down there, we were advised to fix the potential problem.

For 20 years, there had never been a problem with the safety around these pumps, and I never imagined a reason for enclosing them until the day I decided to enclose them immediately.

My son Westyn was 3 years old at the time and loved going to work with me. He loved seeing the cows and all the machinery and was curious about everything. I was so confident in his ability to stay out of harm’s way that I turned my back on him for merely a second. In that short time frame, Westyn had managed to find one of the milk pumps. I turned around just in time to watch him reach his little hand into the little opening of the pump, extending his delicate little fingers towards the high-speed metal shaft.

Fortunately for both of us, my first reaction was to scream in terror of what I was about to witness. That scream jolted a reaction out of him to reverse his forward motion, a motion that could have cost him his right hand. I went cold.

Out of this experience, I have retained a permanent metaphorical pit in my stomach. This pit serves as a reminder to me that safety in the workplace is much more important on family farms than I previously considered. You cannot think solely about your employees and animals; you must take into consideration your little ones who you bring with you and the naïve curiosity that is so important at their age.

We all hope to stay safe, but hope is merely a feeling. Action is where the “rubber meets the road,” and that is all up to you.

Tyler Ribeiro

Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently a partner with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.