April sees the start of a safety focus on livestock by the NFU and the Farm Safety Partnership

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Tom Price the NFU Farm Safety and Transport Policy Adviser highlights the key messages that will be featured in the campaign and those who are most at risk from fatal injury.

Incidents involving livestock are the second biggest overall cause of fatal injury in the farm work place second only to transport.

As with all causes of fatal injury on farm there is nothing inevitable about death and injury caused by contact with livestock. There are risks when handling livestock and the important thing to do is manage them.

Deaths and injuries to farmers and their workers are often caused by:

  • Poor equipment
  • Ineffective methods of moving cattle
  • An underestimation of the strength, speed or behaviour of cattle
  • A lack of physical ability to do the demanding work that is inherent when working with cattle

The NFU and partners in the Farm Safety Partnership are focusing on livestock during the next three months and highlighting steps that farmers can take to better manage risk to themselves, their workers and to the public.

The key messages to industry we are promoting are:

1. Select and use well designed handling facilities, in the yard, buildings and field. Keep them maintained.

  • Good, well maintained handling facilities are vital. A race and crush suitable for animals to be handled are must haves. Make shift gates and hurdles are not sufficient.

2. Be extremley cautious when entering a cattle enclosure and always have an escape route.

  • If you have to attend to “downer” cattle or animals loose in boxes or isolation pens and it is not possible to secure them make sure you have an escape route and will not be crushed if the animal rolls or stands suddenly. Further comprehensive guidance on equipment and handling is in the HSE guide AIC 35 available here.

3. Remove aggressive animals from the herd

  • Management of aggressive animals is vital for the safety of farmers, workers and members of the public. In recent inquests into the deaths of members of the public evidence has come to light that animals with a history of aggressive behaviour had remained in the herd after non- fatal incidents.   If there is a history of aggression farmers must take action to protect the public, themselves and avoid death and serious injury. Not to do so puts every one risk and leaves farmers liable to enforcement action with very serious consequences.

  • Aggressive animals removed from the herd must be removed responsibly and not sold on to become a problem for another farmer.

4. Wherever possible separate livestock from the public and select fields without rights of way when cattle have calves at foot.

  • On average two members of the public are killed in incidents involving cattle ever year. Almost all incidents are in fields and enclosed areas. The most common factors are cows with calves and walkers with dogs. To manage the risks separate the public from livestock wherever possible and use fields without public rights of way when cows are with calves. Guidance from the HSE on cattle and public access is available in AIC 17 available here.  NFU guidance on livestock and rights of way is available to members in Business Guide 407 available here.

Every year the HSE publishes a report on safety in agriculture with details of the incident circumstances for every fatal incident. The report for 2017/18 is available here.Last year there were 8 fatalities (24% of the total) as a result of contact with livestock. Many fatal incidents occurred in situations which could have been avoided if suitable handling facilities were available and used, lone working was avoided and an escape route was available.

It is not possible to say that all the fatal incidents that occurred last year would have been avoided if farmers and workers had good handling facilities available but good facilities and safe practices such as having more than one person involved where ever possible will help reduce risk significantly.

Who is most at risk in livestock incidents?

The answer is older persons.

The HSE statistics are startling. Last year 65% of fatal incident victims in livestock incidents were over the age of 65 years. Four victims were over 80 years of age.

Good handling facilities, safe practices and the effective management of aggressive animals will help reduce the risk for everyone but are even more important for older persons. This is because no matter how fit a person is, it is inevitable that with age, comes a reduction in agility, responsiveness and resilience. It may be hard to accept after a life time in farming but farmers must think very seriously, at any age, as to whether they still have the skills and physical ability to handle cattle safely and keep themselves free from harm.


Last edited on: 28:03:2019

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