Turner County Dairy offers a message, "Safety has no Quitting time".
*This article is reprinted from the South Dakota Dairy Producers newsletter.
April 25, 2014, started out like most days at the Turner County Dairy. George had the feeding done. The milking shifts were going smoothly. The weather had dried out so the corn planters were rolling. The sun was coming out and it was a beautiful day.
Brady, 21 years old, had come to work for us in July of 2013. He had been working construction and, as most young men, he was looking for his place in the world. His brother-in-law works with us. And even though Brady had never been around cows, he was very interested and intrigued by all the activity at the Dairy. We needed his skill set and work ethic. We had a couple of small construction jobs and there is always a list full of repairs that need to be done. He was motivated and a "quick study". Once you showed him how to do something, you never had to show him again. He was very conscientious and very deliberate in his actions. He wasn't afraid to ask questions. . . a lot of them frankly . . . but that was good. He wanted to understand the "hows" and "whys". His passions were sports (especially baseball) and energy drinks.
We still don't know exactly what happened later that morning. If we did, maybe we could "fix it" and move on. George had seen a loose wire or cable under a skid loader as it had gone by and asked Brady to take a skid loader they had just serviced and swap it with the one that just went by. They were going to figure out what was dragging and repair it before it became more serious. Times in crisis are a blur. Minutes later, Brady is pinned under the same skid loader he was driving and 911 is called. There is a frantic effort to get the skid loader off him. The EMTs arrive; the helicopter gets there; the sheriff's deputy gets there. Brady is hurt badly and dies before the emergency crews can get him to a Sioux Falls hospital.
The shock wears off. Reality sets in. And even though very little time has transpired, the people at Turner County Dairy will never be the same. "Safety has no quitting time," "You are the key to Safety," that is what the posters say; but there are lingering questions that will always be on our minds . . . "What happened?" and "What could we have done to prevent this tragedy?"
We are writing this to implore you to look at your current safety programs. When was the last time you had a meeting with your employees dedicated to the safe operation of your machinery? How about a meeting about the safe handling of your livestock, first aid, manure handling, chemicals, electrical equipment? Do you have an employee handbook or a manual explaining your preferred standard operating procedures (SOPs)?
Our management team is working with Tracey Erickson (firstname.lastname@example.org), the dairy field specialist with SDSU Extension, to put together some training "modules" that any and all of us can use to improve our focus on safety. We will have our sessions in both English and Spanish and run each session twice, back to back on the same day so that all of our employees can attend regardless of what shift they may be on. Please check out the National Milk Producer's FARM program too.
As I am writing this, I hear the Sanford or Avera medical helicopter fly overhead. It is a reminder of that fateful day when a valued employee and friend left us. That day still haunts us and our wish is that this short reminder can prevent something like this from happening again. Yes, accidents do happen. Yes, we all get busy and do some stupid things. Yes, most of us will get by with it. But . . . not all stories have a happy ending. Please Stay Safe!
Turner County Dairy