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It’s a dangerous business

Tayler Teichert for Progressive Cattleman Published on 12 July 2018
trailers and pickups

Through some recent life events, I have come to familiarize myself with the acronyms MSHA and OSHA. Before this year, I had never heard of MSHA; I knew OSHA had something to do with safety because I often heard cowboys say, “This probably isn’t OSHA approved,” while doing something fairly dangerous.

OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, while MSHA is more specific for Mine Safety and Health Administration. After a few months of working in a mine and following the MSHA regulations, I’ve decided it’s the safest job I’ve ever had.

A few Google searches later, I discovered that mining and ranching made it on the top 25 list of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Both occupations beat alligator wrestlers and lion tamers; let that sink in for a minute. Jobs in the agriculture industry made the top 10 list of the most dangerous jobs, yet most operations don’t have regular health and safety inspections – if at all. What would it be like if OSHA stepped onto your ranch? Or better yet, what if there was a Ranch Safety and Health Administration? Would your whole operation get shut down, or would you get a few whacks on your knuckles and carry on your way?

MSHA covers things like proper lifting, ladder safety, hearing protection, falling hazards and on and on and on. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to use the bucket of a tractor to lift people. Strike one for me. A Powder River panel turned longways, leaned against a barn and used as a ladder to hang your new cow skull on the barn is actually frowned upon. Strike two! Firing up the old, sort of trusty ranch truck and hitting the road with a low tire, no trailer lights and an inaccurate fuel gage will probably get you a citation if you didn’t do your pre-trip inspection. Strike three! I bet the amount of grocery bags I can stack up my arms to make it in one trip from the car would even be against the lifting regulations. Strike four! I’m not real good at baseball, but I believe that’s a walk, or out. … I’m not sure.

All kidding aside, I’ve learned some very important things about safety working in a mine: Do it right the first time so there can be a second time. We’re never going to have a RSHA, so it’s up to us to be accountable and think of safety. Take an extra day in the round pen with a colt. Do a vehicle or machinery inspection before getting in and turning the key. Keep things clean and free of clutter. Lift with your legs, not your back; wear earplugs; and eat well. These are all things I can get behind, but when I’m not on the clock, I’m probably still going to use the tractor as a man lift, and I will always try and get all the groceries in one trip.  end mark

Tayler Teichert, a 26-year-old sixth-generation rancher, was born and raised ranching across the American West. Since she left home, she has worked in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the shadows of Elk Mountain, the high desert of Idaho and the sage of northern Nevada. In her writing and photography, she documents the action, beauty and everyday life on the ranch while working as a full-time ranch hand. You can learn more about Tayler and check out her photography on her website.

PHOTO: Some ranch rigs that probably weren't inspected before hitting the road. Photo by Tayler Teichert.

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