All people on farm must work safely but employers have additional responsibilities – they must also ensure their employees are working in a safe and healthy workplace and can do their work in a safe and healthy way.
DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir encourages farmers to plan ahead for the risks involved in the calving season.
"During one of the busiest times of the dairy year the last thing farmers need is for themselves, or any of their employees, to be sick or injured and out of action," she says. "It means extra staff have to be hired or the remaining team has to work longer hours, often in cold, dark and wet conditions – increasing the risk of further accidents."
The main injuries reported during calving are musculoskeletal, to the lower back and neck, often from lifting or carrying. These take longer to heal than cuts or even breaks and can become chronic.
Injuries caused by being kicked, stood on or bitten by animals as well as slips, trips and falls, and cuts from sharp objects also figure high in calving season statistics as do vehicle accidents - including motorbike and quad bike accidents.
Close handling of cows means extra care needs to be taken to avoid infection and, at busy times, when all hands are on deck, it is vital to ensure children are closely supervised.
Do some training in good lifting techniques, ensure people understand where they shouldn’t tackle a task alone and understand the personal protective equipment required for different jobs.
Look at the animal handling area set up. Are there escape routes? Even a placid animal can get very protective of a new calf.
Are there any slip/trip risks that need addressing?
Review washing facilities. Ensure a clean place to wash hands is available for everyone – with running water, liquid soap and a hygienic way to dry them, like paper towels.
Plan to manage fatigue and ensure people get regular nutritious meals and keep hydrated. If there are children on the farm, particularly young ones, think about the best ways to safeguard them at a time of heightened workload and increased activity.
By planning ahead, farmers can reduce the risk of themselves or their employees being laid up when they’re needed most.
For more ideas for making farms safer, see saferfarms.org.nz
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy June 2016