Health and Safety in Dairy Farming

Written by Safe Ag Systems


Health and safety should be a priority for everyone. For many industries including dairy, it isn’t optional it’s legal. A safety system shouldn’t just keep you and your workers safe. The right safety management system will assist with the efficiency and productivity of your workers on farm. Your safety software should provide the right information, making it easily accessible, when its needed.

A well-designed safety system should help you avoid safety incidents by identifying risks from hazards before they become a problem. You should feel confident that your safety system is helping you to reduce the risk of penalties or worse, prosecution.

We’ve put together a range of practical resources, guides and templates specifically for dairy safety.

Let's get started.

01 Dairy Industry Snapshot

2020 ended the year on a positive note for the global dairy industry. According to Robobank, commodity prices were strong and there was forecasted growth of 4.5 billion litres for global milk production. It was expected that the leading dairy export regions of the US, Europe, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand and Australia would continue expanding in 2021.

According to Dairy Australia over a period of 12 months, up until August 2020, the global dairy trade increased by 3.8% with the four largest exporting regions experiencing a growth in production. However, it is predicted that with the reduction and finalization of stimulus and support packages that were implemented during the global pandemic, dairy farms should expect to see demand come under pressure.

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*Dairy Statistics Resources: Australian Dairy Industry in Focus 2020, Dairy New Zealand and Dairy UK 

02What are Hazards?

Did you know that when it comes to health and safety, it is important to know the difference between a hazard and a risk? A hazard is defined as anything that can cause harm whilst a risk is the chance of that hazard causing harm.

As a Responsible Person, PCBU and/or an Officer, it is your responsibility to effectively manage and eliminate hazards and risks within your workplace. Your dairy workers have a right to a safe workplace, and they have a responsibility to contribute to their health and safety too.

Dairy farmers face a variety of challenges when it comes to health and safety. Workers are often dealing with large and often erratic dairy cows. And don’t forget operating a range of machinery and equipment to get the job done, plus the need for manual handling to complete day-to-day tasks. Daily hazards also include accessing confined spaces like feed silos, contact with various chemicals for both cleaning purposes or medications and exposure to possibly life-threatening diseases.

Some of the top hazards in the global dairy industry include:

  1. Animal Handling
  2. Confined Spaces
  3. Chemicals
  4. Zoonoses
  5. Environmental including noise exposure, climate and traffic

If you want more information on the above hazards in the dairy industry, check out our blog top 5 hazards in dairy.

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Working on a dairy farm in Australia

Did you know that in Australia being hit by an animal was the main cause of injury for dairy cattle farming and other livestock farming? Being hit by an animal equaled 22% of all injuries for the industry followed by falls on the same level and vehicle incidents at 10% each. In 2018 SafeWork Australia reported that 42% of fatalities in dairy were due to vehicle incidents.

Safety in and around farm dairies in New Zealand

Dairy Farming is a dangerous occupation no matter what country you work in. Over the space of 1 year, January to December 2020, New Zealand recorded 239 instances where injury, illness or serious harm occurred in the agricultural industry. 147 of those were related to dairy cattle farming. In that same year, 10 fatalities in Dairy Farming were confirmed with majority being workers involved in vehicle accidents, trapped by moving machinery or having contact with electricity.

Dairy farmer health and safety in the United Kingdom

According to HSE, over a period of 5 years from 2015/16 to 2019/20 16% of fatal agricultural injuries were caused by animals, 18 of those 24 fatal injuries were caused by cattle. Another 28% were fatally injured by vehicles. In Dairy the main causes of injury included manual handling and lifting, being struck by objects and falls from heights. Between 2018/19 it was recorded that 39 people lost their lives on a farm in the UK, this was an increase on the prior year’s statistics.

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03Managing Safety on a Dairy Farm

As a Dairy Farmer and an employer, you must provide your workers with a safe workplace. You must also ensure the health and safety of contractors, volunteers, visitors and others at your workplace. That is why it is important that you maintain a working environment with risks reduced or eliminated, in conditions that prevent injury and illness.

In order to manage the safety in and around farm dairies your safety management system should help you maintain and monitor the below areas:

Inductions and Training

When you introduce new workers to your dairy farm the very first thing you should do is start with an induction. Your induction process should cover a range of topics including basic information, property layout and expectations of employment. In addition to a general induction, you must also include a health and safety induction. This health and safety information should outline your workplace policies and procedures, hazards and risks, emergency plans as well as training and instructions specific to their role.

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Communication with Contractors

As part of your risk management process communication is key. Whilst you have covered inductions for your workers, don’t forget to manage your obligations to your Contractors. Depending on the season you may hire Contractors and Sub-Contractors to assist with additional work such as silage or fencing. When you employ a Contractor you share the responsibility for their health and safety on your property. Before your Contractor comes onto your property they should know where your effluent ponds are located as well as your policy on animal and/or manual handling.

Record Keeping

Record keeping is a challenge for all industries, but in Dairy you may feel like you are overwhelmed with the paperwork. Your Safety Management System should help you organize your records ensuring they are up to date and accurate. A record keeping process should assist you with proving you are compliant in your health and safety duties as well as providing you with a performance overview and ensuring you meet your insurance requirements.

Your records should include:

  • Policies and Procedures

  • Worker inductions, training, and qualifications

  • Registration documents for machinery

  • Inspection and maintenance details for equipment

  • Hazard identification and control measures

  • Worker records including employment and health

Depending on the size and nature of your dairy operation some records are mandatory. It is best to check with your local regulator if you are unsure.

Policies and Procedures

Present evidence when you need it, that you are providing a safe working environment with policies and procedures. Your policies need to address the responsibilities of both the workers and management with the aim to decrease risks relating to health and safety. Dairy Farmers need to consider several policies including Operating Machinery and Equipment, Incident and Hazard Reporting as well as Moving Livestock and Working in Confined Spaces such as feed silos and pits.

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Near Miss and Incident Reporting

Most countries with a health and safety regulator will have rules around near misses and incidents including the process for reporting and penalties if the correct process is not followed. 

Reporting a near miss or incident should be viewed as a solution and a chance to improve your commitment to health and safety. A strong reporting culture in the workplace can lead to better risk management and avoidance of serious incidents in the future. Incident reporting should help your dairy farm remove hazards before anything happens, encourages worker engagement and ownership, assist your management team with compliance and provides a defence if an investigation were to happen. A near miss could be as simple as a worker slipping on the wet floor, but not falling or resulting in an injury in the dairy shed. This could be taken as an opportunity to review suitable footwear in the workplace or look at drainage and housekeeping processes.

Read more on how you can manage a near miss or incident in dairy farming and look at hazards from a different point of view.

Emergency Management

Do your workers know who to contact in the event of an emergency or can you notify your workers in an emergency such as a hay fire? Your Safety Management System should be a safe place to store this information, ensuring your workers have access when they need it most. As part of your good health and safety practices, you need emergency procedures documented. This should detail evacuation plans, name and contact details for first aid and emergency services, fire safety and biosecurity procedures.

As always, if you are unsure about the legislative requirements for your country, it is best to check with your local regulator.

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04Health and safety templates for Dairy

Developed by a farming family specifically for Agriculture, the Safe Ag Systems program supports health and safety in the dairy industry with templates built specifically for their industry needs. 

Dairy Inductions

Dairy farming presents its own challenges so inductions should be tailored for the industry. Using the Safe Ag Systems program you can send inductions direct to your workers and contractors before they arrive onsite. Meet your obligations and communicate your safety requirements, track who has completed an induction and who you need to follow-up. Our purpose built Working with Livestock and in Stockyards Induction covers flight zones, use of PPE, hygiene to minimize the risk of zoonosis and animal handling.

dairy - inductions


Policies and Procedures

Utilise a range of Safe Ag System templates written to meet the specific demands of the dairy industry. Ensuring that policies and procedures are easily accessible when your workers are busy in the dairy shed or out in the field. Communicate your expectations with the Working in Dairy Policy and know that you are covering important safety information from working with live animals and the risks associated, through to safe working conditions, animal vaccinations and risks such as effluent ponds, tanks and working in confined spaces.

Our procedures developed for Dairy Farming includes:
  • Animal Weighing Scale
  • Milk Harvesting
  • Portable livestock dip

Inspections and Checklists

Part of your risk management process is to identify potential hazards before they become a danger to your workers. Don’t hire a Safety Consultant, utilise Safe Ag Systems range of inspections to aid hazard identification distinct to dairy. Our range of dairy inspection templates will help you tackle Animal Welfare, Biosecurity, Safe and Responsible Animal Treatment as well as identify hazards in your cattle yards. Stay on top of your hazards by equipping workers with a tool in the palm of their hand. Follow up Safety Inspections by creating tasks or review the inspection report on your desktop or mobile. 


05 Industry Resources

If you are still searching for information to help with safety in and around dairy farms below are some helpful resources:


New Zealand

United Kingdom

06 A safety management system for dairy farming

Jane Sykes, a commercial dairy farm manager based in Tasmania, believes it is an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace. With a passion for cows and dairy farming, Jane and her team did their best to manage risks and maintain a safety system, but acknowledged they needed some support when it comes to OHS/ WHS. 

After a recent scare on farm, Jane states, “It did show us just how far off perfect our system was, and I felt the need to look to a program to help us. Luckily our new employee made a full recovery, but it did show us all the things we aren’t as good at as we thought.”

After this incident which identified the gaps in health and safety on her dairy farm, Jersey Australia nominated Jane to incorporate Safe Ag Systems on her farm.

Currently Jane is working to input her remaining data into Safe Ag Systems but is already noticing the benefits. With a comprehensive safety system in use, the team can see the difference between where the business is, where they need to be and the steps they will take to get there. Whilst some changes may seem small, these small adjustments to health and safety practices could have significant impacts in the future.

Read more about Jane’s journey to implement Safe Ag Systems.

In Summary

Working on a dairy farm, there are a number of risks and hazards associated with day-to-day tasks from machinery and equipment, handling animals and use of chemicals. Implement a safety system that helps you to identify and manage those risks and hazards through clear communication and record keeping.

Safe Ag Systems was purpose built to assist the agricultural industry meet health and safety obligations whilst reducing the paperwork. Start your health and safety journey with a safety management program that provides resources written for the dairy industry.

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Written by Safe Ag Systems