UW-River Falls and National Farm Medicine Center partnership impacts dairy farm worker injuries

July 20, 2016--What started out as a simple goal for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Safety Committee to submit a grant five years ago has evolved into a significant educational opportunity for immigrant dairy farm workers in the State of Wisconsin.

UW-River Falls Risk Manager and Program Director for the Center for Dairy Farm Safety (CDFS) Connie Smith traveled to Marshfield July 12 to receive further recognition for the university from the National Farm Medicine Center for their part in this endeavor.

"The partnership with the National Farm Medicine Center resulted in a positive impact in our state at reducing worker injuries on dairy farms," said Smith. "The customized training program was presented right on the farm in either Spanish or English so workers received the training in their native language."    
Through the partnership, the program focuses on providing training and education for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces, and informs workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under the OSHA Act. Target audiences include underserved, low-literacy, and workers in high-hazard industries.  

The CDFS was established at UW-River Falls in September 2011 through a four-year grant from the Susan Harwood Grant Program managed by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program awards grants to nonprofit organizations on a competitive basis. Awards are issued annually based on Congressional appropriation. Through the application process each year, subsequent grants were awarded to UW-River Falls in 2013, 2014, and 2015 based on training goals being met and partnerships developed.

In spring 2011, a representative from the OSHA office in Eau Claire contacted Smith in an effort to develop and pilot farm safety educational sessions for dairy producers in the area. That fall, OSHA was planning to implement a "Local Emphasis Program" (LEP) in Wisconsin due to the number of deaths and serious injuries that occurred on dairy farms. The LEP increased the number of OSHA safety inspections on dairy farms due to the risks involved. The concern was that dairy producers were unfamiliar with OSHA standards and anxiety related to the increased inspections and potential citations/fines would be counterproductive to the goal of reducing severe injuries and fatalities on dairy farms by identifying and reducing/eliminating hazards. Offering educational sessions would provide the education needed for the producers and would raise awareness regarding the seriousness of the hazards.

The project has also been recognized by the National Safety Council for Stakeholder Collaboration in Occupational Injury Research.

For more information about the grant or the Center for Dairy Farm Safety, email

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