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Worker safety on Maryland dairy farms

As of 2007, there were over 500 dairy farms in operation Maryland with more than 200,000 acres devoted to dairy farms. Agricultural employment has long been considered one of the most dangerous types of employment and workplace injuries are common in agricultural settings. Because of the nature of work on dairy farms, dairy farm workers are especially vulnerable to injuries caused by machinery and livestock.

In the 1970s, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and OSHA has enacted safety regulations that dairy farms with 11 or more employees must follow. OSHA inspects dairy farms for safety and the agency inspected 736 dairy farms nationwide from 2000 to 2010. These inspections uncovered several common violations that placed dairy workers at risk.

Many dairy farms lacked a proper injury and illness prevention program. Many lacked a work injury recording and reporting program. Some farms lacked adequate fire prevention equipment, including fire extinguishers. OSHA also found many dairy farms did not adequately inform workers about hazardous chemicals used on site and many farms lacked a safety management plan for highly hazardous chemicals.

Because dairy workers spend time near livestock and heavy machinery, they are especially vulnerable to crush injuries, and OSHA found many dairy farms lacked rollover-protective structures.

Additionally, dairy farms tend to have a lot of dust and airborne matter floating around, but many farms did not provide respiratory protection for their workers or equipment for eye and face protection.

Dairy farms that violate OSHA regulations can be fined up to $70,000 for serious violations. Although these fines encourage employers to follow safety regulations, these fines do not compensate injured employees. This often leaves injured employees with questions about receiving compensation for their injuries. If you have questions about a workplace injury, an experienced workplace injury and workers' compensation attorney can help.

Sources: Dairy Herd Network, "Put employees' safety first," Megan Pierce, 4/7/2011

Southern Maryland Online, "Number of Dairy Farms in Maryland Continues Steep Decline," Kenneth R. Fletcher, 10/8/2007

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