Create a partnership in safety with your farm employees

By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

As dairy farms grow larger, many start to need more labor, which results in non-family employees and more risk on the farm.

Here are five steps to create a partnership between farm owners and workers to promote a safe work environment.

1. Create a culture of safety values. Creating that culture means talking about safety frequently. It means emphasizing the well-being of your workers is important to you personally and to the farm business. Creating the culture means teaching by example — work safely yourself.

2. Training is essential. Some safety topics require extensive training programs while others may be addressed with impromptu discussions and demonstrations when hazards are observed.

3. Make sure workers know how to perform their normal jobs safely and that doing a job safely is more important than doing it quickly. Employers may want to include a section about safety in their employee handbook so workers have it as a reference when needed. When you observe a worker doing something in an especially safe manner, make positive comments about it.

4. Involve everyone in finding and reducing hazards on the farm. Get everyone in the habit of doing one of two things when they observe any situation that may be hazardous — repair it or report it.

5. Use progressive discipline to enforce safety. When hazardous practices are observed, they demand immediate attention to minimize the chances of that practice becoming a bad habit. Warnings should be immediate, consistent and impersonal. Criticize and correct the practice the first time without sounding threatening to the individual.

Using these steps can help maintain a safe farm and safe workplace for your employees.