Farm employee winter safety

Farm employees in the United States come from all over the world. By the nature of their work, they spend at least some portion of their workday outside or in unheated buildings. It’s obvious to those of us who live in the northern states how to deal with winter, but it isn’t to employees who aren’t familiar with it.

Maristela Rovai is an assistant professor and extension dairy specialist at South Dakota State University. She says employers with workers from warm climates such as Central America and South America should make sure their employees know how to dress appropriately for the working conditions.

"I worked in those low temperatures outside, working with the animals for many hours. Have thermal underwear because I think the key here is not to lose body temperature. That is important. Gloves are important, but not those single-layer gloves but protected gloves to work outside. Socks are important," says Rovai. "They also need flexibility; they are moving all the time."

Make sure employees know the signs of hypothermia and how to avoid it. Teach them how to drive in wintery conditions and the importance of a winter survival kit in their vehicle. Rovai says they also need guidance when they’re not at the farm.

"To show them or to educate them that even their houses need to be protected because most of them, they are living in trailers, you know? And trailers are complicated in that way if it’s colder than normal," she says. "Teach them in that aspect, how to take care of yourself at home."