Keeping safety a priority

Written by Lauren Holtmeier

Different perspectives on farm safety offer variety of ways to accomplish the same goal

Farmers face potentially dangerous working conditions every day, year round, with each season bringing different hazards. Although seasons may change, some risks remain constant, including machinery accidents and those presented by working with cattle.

The fatality rate for farmers was the highest in any industry in 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But there is good news — that rate has been dropping the past three years.

There are aspects of farming that will always be risky, but fortunately, there are resources to inform farmers of potential risks and help operations utilize best practices to minimize chances of disaster.

On the farm

DFA Insurance, provided by Agri-Services Agency, works with farmers to discover potential hazards on the farm and then works to curtail chance of injury in the identified area.

“If there’s a farm with a lot of a specific type of claims, we’ll go out to that farm, and look at it, see how they’re doing it and figure out why they’re having these particular injuries,” says Lee Hipp, senior farm safety and risk improvement manager with DFA Insurance. After the assessment, he will make recommendations on how to improve safety practices.

Hipp tells every farm he visits two things:

“One — there’s no such thing as a good claim, and two — if you’re not preparing to prevent an accident or injury on your farm, then you’re preparing to have one,” he says.

He says the safest farms’ dedication and initiative for safety comes from the top. 

“It’s those farms where the ownership takes safety seriously and ties it into daily farm operations that are the good, safe farms,” he says.

Brian Haverkamp, owner of Kelly Hills Dairy in Seneca, Kan., is one such employer.

“The number one goal is to keep everybody safe,” he says.

Using common sense when around machinery and animals is just as important as using proper safety techniques. He says that allowing employees to remain well-rested is key.

“If you’re tired, you’re not worried about what you’re doing, and you’re more likely to make a mistake,” he says.

Haverkamp focuses on animal safety alongside employee safety. A safer work environment is provided by ensuring that employees know how to safely handle and move cows. Not rushing cows while moving them and being aware of their movement and location are important, he says.

Seasonal concerns also must be monitored on Kelly Hills Dairy, which is located in the heart of Tornado Alley.

“Our employees have to keep milking, so we watch the weather closely for them, so they can focus on their job,” he says. “They know we’ll get them out of there if conditions change.”

Dave Rottinghaus, owner and operator of Rottinghaus Holsteins, is another producer in Seneca, Kan., who is dedicated to keeping employees safe. He says that they have safety standards in place for equipment usage and animal handling.

“One thing I’ve seen is kids running around when there’s a lot of equipment running, and I don’t allow that on our farm,” Rottinghaus says.

Keeping kids safe

While Rottinghaus doesn’t allow kids around machinery, many children reside on farms and are around machinery daily.