- Design the farm dairy to let workers milk in a comfortable position, between shoulder and mid-thigh
- Install kick rails
- Guard rotary platform rollers
- Fence off all effluent ponds
The purpose of these guidelines is to help reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities by providing practical guidance on how to manage hazards in and around farm dairies.
On Monday 4th April 2016, the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) came into effect. HSWA repeals the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, with immediate effect. All references to the 1992 Act on this website and within our guidance will be progressively removed. The existing guidance sets out relevant information and practices that people can follow to help keep their farms healthy and safe.
This publication is a guide to improving health and safety on dairy farms, especially in and around farm dairies.
This guideline outlines the potential hazards in and around farm dairies, and provides recommendations to eliminate, isolate and minimise those hazards. WorkSafe NZ accepts these recommendations as current industry best practice. They will help you comply with the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
Dairy farming can be dangerous. This guideline gives advice about the following hazards:
This guide applies to anyone working on dairy farms, including farm owners, sharemilkers, farm staff, contractors, farming families and the wider rural community.
Industry experts helped WorkSafe NZ develop this guide. WorkSafe NZ also conducted a thorough review of accident statistics and published academic literature and looked at how overseas health and safety regulators manage the same issues.
WorkSafe NZ has made every effort to ensure the guide’s recommended hazard controls reflect current best practice.
The most common hazards faced by those working in farm dairies are set out in this section. Guidance is provided about how to effectively manage these hazards.
People working in farm dairies are exposed to hazards involving machinery and moving parts, animals, slips, trips, falls, exoskeletal injuries, electrical and chemical hazards, and burns from hot water. The following hazards in farm dairies can be controlled through good design.
|Exposed platform rollers
on rotary platforms
|Projections at head height
like receivers, interceptors,
pipes and rails
rapid exit mechanisms
|Moving rotary platforms
passing fixed rails can
potentially trap or crush
|Carrying out cattle
insemination (AI) and pregnancy testing on rotary platforms
|Cracked or leaking pipe joints||
|Very hot water||
|Poorly designed cow entries
and exits that have turns,
ramps, steps or are too steep
|Cows going down and/or
entering the pit
A safe farm dairy should be designed that way from the start; but existing farm dairies can have many safety features incorporated into refits, expansions and upgrades.
In the farm dairy these unguarded machinery parts present serious risks of injury:
The dangerous machine parts are:
All machine guarding must comply with AS 4024 Safety of Machinery Series.
Regularly maintain all farm machinery according to manufacturer’s instructions. Clearly mark all controls. Do not use faulty machinery.
Slips and trips are one of the most common accidents when working in and around farm dairies. Many farmers have slip-related accidents, which substantially reduces their capacity for work. Injuries to arms or wrists not only make it hard for the farmer to work, but put a heavier workload on other workers.
Slips and trips often happen in the pit during milking, when handling cattle, getting cows in for milking, and during maintenance and cleaning.
The following hazards make it more likely that you will slip or trip:
|Wet or slippery surfaces||
|Hoses, pipes and uneven surfaces||
For more information, see WorkSafe NZ’s Best Practice Guide: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls on Farms.
Manual handling refers to activities where a person has to use force to lift, push, pull, roll, hold, restrain or carry an object or animal. It also includes repetitive tasks.
Manual handling tasks on dairy farms include one-off events like restraining a cow, lifting feed or additive bags and carrying buckets of milk or water. You can also be injured by doing repetitive movements with low force, like putting cups on, teat spraying by hand or using hand tools.
If not done properly, manual handling can result in a musculoskeletal injury, which is soft tissue damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage or nerves. These injuries usually happen in the back, shoulders, elbows, knees and fingers.
Musculoskeletal injuries can be very painful, often take longer to heal than cuts and broken bones, and have the potential to become chronic injuries (causing longterm pain). Severe harm can lead to some body movements, like bending down, being permanently restricted. They can even stop you from working.
Assess potentially hazardous manual handling tasks to find ways of doing the same job in a safer way.
Watch out for the following activities and think about what you can do to eliminate them or reduce the harm they could do:
See WorkSafe's Best Practice Guide: Preventing Manual Handling Injuries on Farms for more information.
Handling milking clusters is probably the most frequent manual handling task in farm dairies. Repetitive manual handling, especially in awkward positions (like putting cups on in a shallow pit) can cause musculoskeletal injuries.
Specific tasks causing injury are:
An obvious hazard is the mismatch between the worker’s height and the pit’s depth (or the rotary’s height).
Set up your workplace to reduce bending, twisting or loading. Keep the work in front of people, between their shoulder and mid-thigh. This position allows the natural lumbar curve in the back to be maintained.
Other ways to manage milking risks:
Lifting and carrying objects increases the risk of back injury. Most back injuries don’t happen suddenly. They usually occur after many years of wear and tear, making the discs between the vertebrae weak and prone to rupture.
These lifting and carrying tasks pose risks:
Managing the hazard:
Look at ways to reduce how many heavy items you lift. Move your feet instead of twisting your back. Keep the load in front of and close to your body. During long shifts, change jobs regularly to give your muscles a break.
To reduce lifting and carrying hazards:
Other manual handling tasks in the farm dairy, such as herd testing, also pose risks for musculoskeletal injuries.
Managing the hazard:
Removing herd test
Sorting sample flasks
Transporting trays of samples
|Bending using teat sprays||
Electrical safety is a major issue in dairy farming. The wet conditions in the farm dairy increase the risks. Electrocution can kill. Other electrical risks are fire or machinery breakdowns. These risks can cause serious injury, destroy property, damage plant and equipment, and you can lose production.
Electrical leads and
|Circuit board overload||
Repairs and installations
Contact with wet
There are several potential confined spaces on dairy farms, including milk vats, tanks, pits, pipes or feed silos.
Confined spaces have unique hazards, like restricted entries or exits, dangerous atmospheres or engulfment. The effects of physical or chemical agents acting alone or in combination can be made worse in a confined space.
Gases, like refrigerants or from cleaning fluids, can leak into a vat, pushing out the oxygen. You will suffocate in this environment.
You can remove the hazards caused by confined spaces through safe design. If you don’t need to enter these spaces, you've eliminated the hazard.
Assess the risk of accessing the vat from a height.
If you have to enter a milk vat:
Always have another responsible person watch you when you work inside a vat or milk silo. They must be able to see what you are doing and raise the alarm in case you collapse or hurt yourself in the vat.
Handling cattle always involves a risk of injury from crushing, kicking, butting or goring. Even skilled cattle handlers take knocks or kicks some time in their careers. Never underestimate the risk from cattle, even with good systems in place.
Injuries usually happen when moving dairy cows in and out of the dairy shed, during milking (eg from kicks) and during herd testing.
Risks increase if cattle are fearful or agitated. Cows may be fearful or agitated if:
Many cattle are familiar with being around humans – dairy cows are normally handled daily and pose fewer risks. However, newly
calved cows are very protective of their calves and can behave unpredictably. Fattening cattle, kept in the paddock, may not be handled often, so the risks are greater. Dairy bulls are dangerous. They are unpredictable and may be aggressive toward humans and other bulls.
Make sure cattle are handled by experienced people who know the hazards and how to avoid them.
Proper handling systems, trained and competent staff and a rigorous culling policy helps ensure cattle handling can be carried out in relative safety.
Make sure that heifers new to the milking herd – which may be less familiar with noises, activity and people – get used to them before
their first milking. To do this, walk them through the shed pre-calving and with the machines running to familiarise them with the noises.
Don’t leave heifers by themselves on the rotary platform, especially if it is stationary, as they become easily agitated.
Install kick rails in the cow shed to prevent injuries to milkers.
If you have a habitually aggressive or difficult to handle animal, think about culling it from the herd. If this is not an option, make sure your equipment and work systems can deal with it. Tell staff and other people (like vets) about the potential difficulties.
Handle dairy bulls with extreme caution. Handlers should never work alone with bulls.
If practicable train bulls to stay in the paddock, so they do not need to be drafted out at the milking shed.
For more information see WorkSafe NZ’s Best Practice Guide for Handling Cattle Safely.
Agrichemicals are potentially hazardous and people can become ill if they are exposed to them. Badly stored agrichemicals can seriously harm children or others unaware of the risks of exposure. Also, some chemicals can form potentially deadly, flammable or explosive cocktails if accidentally mixed.
Store agrichemicals safely and make sure children and unauthorised people cannot get to the chemicals.
Dairy farms can be noisy. A farm dairy has many loud and continuous noises, including a radio cranked up to be heard above the other noises. If noise is not controlled, it can cause serious and permanent hearing damage. The amount of hearing loss depends on how loud the noise is and how long people are exposed to it.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB) or energy at the ear – dB(A). The Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995 say employers must keep average work noise levels below 85dB(A). Employers also have to make sure employees aren’t exposed to peak noise levels of 140dB or more.
Employers must have a noise management plan to keep the noise levels down, if:
Particular risks include:
Some noises can be eliminated (eg the radio) or reduced (eg by using quieter processes, enclosures, different materials or noise dampening). Use hearing protection if the noise cannot be reduced.
Specific controls for reducing noise:
Provide and use hearing protection when other solutions do not reduce workers’ exposure to noise enough.
See WorkSafe NZ’s Best Practice Guide: Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss on Farms for more information.
See 'Classified Hearing Protectors'. This guide can be found in AS/NZS 1269: Occupational Noise Management and on the WorkSafe website: www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/all-guidance-items/hearing-protectors-selection-and-use-of/classified-hearing-protectors-dec-2013.pdf
The dairy farm isn’t only a workplace; it’s also a home and place of recreation. Children can have accidents and injuries on dairy farms.
Particular risks include:
Stop small children from going into work areas. Design the farm dairy, other buildings and equipment to minimise hazards for children. Set a good example; children follow what their parents and other adults do.
You can help improve the safety of children on dairy farms by:
Poorly managed waste and effluent systems affect everyone’s health on the dairy farm. It’s important to design and set up an effective waste and effluent system, including managing dairy effluent ponds.
Poorly managed effluent ponds expose people (especially young children) to the risk of drowning. A crust, followed by weed growth, builds up on effluent pond surfaces. The crust might look like solid ground, but it won’t take a person’s or animal’s weight and they can fall through the crust into the effluent pond.
Poorly drained areas increase the risk of slips and falls for livestock and workers. Poor waste management also increases the health risks
associated with flies and insects.
Check your local authority’s rules and regulations for guidance on pond construction and use.
To avoid problems with effluent systems:
To keep people safe who work on effluent ponds and pontoons, or live close to effluent ponds:
Managing the hazard:
Decaying manure releases large amounts of gas when it’s stored, pumped, mixed, spread and cleaned out. There are four unsafe gases:
Separate uncontaminated surface water from the effluent system. You can collect it to use in the shed or direct it to rivers and streams
to maintain environmental flows and recharge aquifers. Separating surface water from effluent reduces the amount of effluent you
have to deal with.
Send contaminated surface water to effluent collection ponds, if the ponds can handle the extra volumes. If the effluent ponds can’t handle the volume, design the shed to allow for separate contaminated surface water collection.
Reduce contaminated and uncontaminated surface water by building surface water diversion systems to reduce flow on to the milking site, effluent application sites and other sensitive areas
Zoonoses are diseases that humans can catch from animals. They cause mild to life-threatening human health problems. People working with livestock, including those working in the farm dairy, may be exposed to these diseases.
Humans can catch the following diseases from cattle: acariasis, campylobacter, cryptosporidiosis, E. coli, leptospirosis, listeriosis, milkers’ nodules, ringworm, salmonella and streptococcus.
You can be exposed to zoonotic diseases by:
Avoid catching diseases from animals through good health and hygiene practices.
Training shares knowledge and develops good skills and attitudes. It influences behaviour and improves health and safety on the farm.
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 says employees must be trained and supervised to carry out their work safely.
Many serious injuries happen to young workers, new employees, people doing new or different work, and after a long period of leave.
Farm owners, managers and employers should make sure that dairy farm workers either have enough experience, or are trained and
supervised so they won’t put themselves or others at risk.
Train milkers and other people working on dairy farms so they can care for the cattle, maintain animal welfare and production standards, and avoid getting hurt.
In general, farmers need to:
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 gives employees the right to be involved in workplace health and safety matters. One way to do this is by electing a health and safety representative. This is someone employees can go to when they have any concerns or suggestions about health and safety in the workplace. The representative will work with the employer in good faith to find a solution.
This representative can take two days paid leave each year to do approved health and safety training.
|Acariasis||A rash caused by mites. It sometimes has bumps and is usually very itchy|
|All Practicable Steps||
Section 2A Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992:
‘The steps taken to achieve the result that it is reasonably practicable to take in the circumstances, having regard to:
‘To avoid doubt, a person required by the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 to take all practicable steps is required to take those steps only in respect of circumstances that the person knows or ought reasonably to know about.’
|Asymmetrical Posture||A posture that requires the body to twist or bend to one side or to bear the weight unevenly on the feet.|
|Auger||A mechanism that uses a rotating helical screw blade, called a ‘flighting’, usually within a tube, to move liquid or granular materials.|
|Campylobacter||A type of bacteria that usually causes diarrhoea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever. It is one of the main causes of food poisoning in many developed countries.|
|Control or Control Measure||A way of eliminating, isolating or minimising the risk of harm for any job.|
AS 2865 Confined Spaces:
An enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not intended or designed primarily for human occupancy, within which there is a risk of one or more of the following:
|Contributory Factors (Manual Handling)||The factors of load, environment, people, task and management that can contribute to the incidence and severity of manual handling hazards.|
|Cryptosporidiosis||A microscopic parasite that can live outside a host for a long time. It causes diarrhoea. It is usually picked up from contaminated water.|
|E. Coli||A bacteria that causes illness. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some types can cause serious food poisoning.|
|Ergonomics||Ergonomics (or human factors) aims to understand how people and other elements of a system interact. It is the study of human behaviour, abilities, limitations and other characteristics. This information is applied to the design of tools, machines, tasks, jobs, environments and systems.|
|Hazard||Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992: “An activity, arrangement, circumstance, event, occurrence, phenomenon, process, situation or substance…that is an actual or potential cause or source of harm”.|
|Hazardous Manual Handling||
The presence in a manual handling task of one or more of the following:
|Leptospirosis||A disease caused by bacteria (Leptospira). It affects both humans and other animals. Leptospiral infection in humans can cause a range of symptoms, some very serious. But some infected people may have no symptoms at all.|
|Listeriosis||A bacterial infection. Infected people often get diarrhoea or other gastrointestinal symptoms followed by a fever and muscle aches.|
|Load||The object being handled or the forces being applied.|
|Manipulative Tasks||Tasks that require an object of some sort to be held and worked on at the same time.|
|Manual Handling||Any activity requiring a person to interact with their environment and use any part of their muscles or skeletal system to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, throw, move, restrain or hold any object, whether inanimate or not.|
|Manual Handling Task||Specific manual handling action or activity. It may be one part of a job.|
|Milkers’ Nodules||A skin condition that is usually caught from the udders of infected cows. Milkers’ nodule is caused by Paravaccinia virus. It looks like the orf (scabby mouth) skin disease in humans.|
|Musculoskeletal Disorders (Work Related)||A collective name for a range of conditions that affect the muscles, tendons, bones and joints. This term includes occupational overuse syndromes, back injuries and acute low back pain.|
|OOS||Occupational overuse syndrome. An umbrella term for a range of disorders characterised by pain and/or other sensations in muscles, tendons, nerves, soft tissues and joints with evidence of clinical signs. Overuse syndromes are musculoskeletal disorders|
|Personal Protective Equipment||Items of personal equipment worn for protection of some sort: ear muffs, gloves and boots are examples.|
|Pit||The pit or milking pit is a sunken area that houses both the milker and some milking equipment during milking. This puts the milker at shoulder level with udders and reduces physical demands.|
|Plant||Any appliance, equipment, fitting, furniture, implement, machine, machinery, tool or vehicle (and any part, controls or anything connected to that plant).|
|Resiliency||Less resilient people are those who are more at risk (in this context of harm from manual handling) than others for some reason. This may be because they are, for example, younger, older, different in size or strength or disabled. Each situation requires evaluation on its own merits.|
|Ringworm||A fungal infection of the skin in humans, pets (such as cats) and stock (such as sheep and cattle).|
Section 2(1) Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992:
‘Not exposed to any hazards or free from hazards’.
|Salmonella||A type of bacteria found in the gut of humans and animals. Many salmonella infections are caused by eating contaminated food.|
|Serious Harm||‘Any of the following conditions that amounts to or results in permanent loss of bodily function or the temporary severe loss of bodily function:…musculoskeletal disease…’First schedule of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992|
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992:
‘Significant hazard means a hazard that is an actual or potential cause or source of—
|Strains and Sprains||These terms are used in the sense of their normal meanings in a medical diagnosis.|
|Streptococcus||A type of bacteria. It causes illnesses such as strep throat, pink eye, meningitis, bacterial pneumonia, endocarditis (an inflammation in the heart), erysipelas (a skin infection) and necrotising fasciitis (a ‘flesh- eating’ skin infection).|
|Workplace Design||The design of the workplace – by implication in relation to the characteristics of the people who will use the workplace and the work that will be done in it.|
|Zoonoses||A disease that can pass between species, from cattle to humans or the other way around.|
A Review of Health and Safety Leadership and Managerial Practices on Modern Dairy Farms, GR Hagevoort, DI Douphrate & SJ Reynolds, Journal of Agromedicine, 18(3) 2013
Other Journal of Agromedicine articles
Agricultural Fatalities in Canada 1990–2008: Summary of 19 Years of Injury Data from Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting, Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting, 2012
Dairy Farm Injury in Victoria, L Day. Monash University Accident Research Centre, 1996. (Report #96 – 1996)
Dairy Farm Worker Exposure to Awkward Knee Posture During Milking and Feeding Tasks, MW Nonnenmann, DC Anton, F Gerr & HJ Yack. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 7(8) 2010
Slips, Trips and Falls in the New Zealand Dairy Farming Sector, Tim Bentley et al. ACC, Centre for Human Factors and Ergonomics, 2003
Survey of Milking Facilities, Management, and Performance on Wisconsin and Italian Dairy Farms, Robert Bade, Katie Hohmann, Jose Pantoja, Maddalena Zucali, Pamela L. Ruegg & Douglas Reinemann. Paper presented at the Sixth International ASABE Dairy Housing Conference Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 16–18 June 2007
Dairy Farm Effluent Pump Hazards, Department of Labour, 2011
Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle (CA), National Farm Animal Care Council, 2009, Section 1 Accommodation, Housing and Handling Facilities
Dairy Housing – A Best Practice Guide (UK), Dairy Co, 2012 (Chapter 9 Handling Facilities)
Dairy Safety: A Practical Safety Guide (AU), WorkSafe Victoria, 2006
Effluent and Manure Management Database for the Australian Dairy Industry (AU), Dairy Australia, 2008, (Chapter 6 Occupational Health and Safety)
Effluent Management Guidelines for Dairy Sheds in Australia, Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, 1999
Environmental Management Guidelines for the Dairy Industry (AU), Liz Rogers. NSW Department of Primary Industries, 2008
Farm Policies & Systems – Health and Safety Risk Management (AU), The People in Dairy, Dairy Australia
Guide to Good Dairy Farming Practice, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Dairy Production, 2011
Handling and Housing Cattle (UK), Health and Safety Executive, 2012 (Agriculture Information Sheet No 35 (Rev 1))
Health and Safety Guidelines for Ontario Dairy Farms (CA), Farm Safety Association
OSHA WI Dairy Farm Local Emphasis Program Guidance Documents (US), University of Wisconsin Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, 2012
Pits ‘n People [video] (AU), Cowtime
Safe Work Practices for Dairy Workers in BC (CA), Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association, 2005
The Impact of Milking on People (AU), Cowtime, National Milk Harvesting Centre, 2005 (Quick Note 7.1)
This guideline was prepared by WorkSafe New Zealand, with help from:
> Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
> Beef and Lamb New Zealand
> Dairy Womens Network
> Federated Farmers of New Zealand Inc
> Horticulture New Zealand
> Landcorp Farming Ltd
> Lincoln University
> Ministry for Primary Industries
> New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU)
> New Zealand Dairy Workers Union
> New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)
> Primary Industry Training Organisation
> Rural Contractors New Zealand
> Rural Women New Zealand
> Standards New Zealand
> University of Auckland
> University of Otago.
WorkSafe New Zealand also acknowledges the following organisations for providing information used to develop this guide:
> WorkSafe Victoria (Australia)
> Dairy Australia
> The Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA) (Canada).
WorkSafe New Zealand has made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this publication
is reliable, but makes no guarantee of its completeness. WorkSafe New Zealand may change the contents
of this guide at any time without notice.
ISBN: 978-0-478-42529-1 (online)
ISBN: 978-0-478-42528-4 (print)
Published: November 2014, Current until: 2017
PO Box 3705, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
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Attribution-Non-commercial 3.0 NZ licence.
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