Against the background of The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) annual Livestock Event at Birmingham’s NEC, day three of Farm Safety Week casts a spotlight on livestock and, in particular, crush injuries.
Handling cattle always involves risks, the risk of being hurt physically by an animal that is frightened or has been startled and the risk of being hurt due to the misuse of equipment or equipment that is poorly maintained.
Many farmers never stop to consider why animals behave as they do and, more importantly, what this behaviour could mean to their personal safety. Animal-handling practices are often inherited from watching others and from personal experiences growing up on the farm. Too often, this results in unsafe livestock handling and restraint practices.
Although most animal incidents are not fatal, many men, women and children are needlessly injured every year due to a lack of safety awareness. Broken bones, crushed and mashed limbs, work absences and unnecessary medical expenses are some of the results of livestock-related incidents.
Today, the Farm Safety Week team is challenging farmers to think about improving livestock handling systems and making them safer and more efficient.
NFU Vice President and Farm Safety Partnership member Guy Smith said: “Over the course of this week, we have five days, five themes and five countries with one very clear question – Have you thought about ‘Who Would Fill Your Boots?’ if you were to have a farm accident.
“Today it’s all about animals. Livestock can be unpredictable, something that Liskeard farmer Stephen Pearce (see below) knows all too well...
“Farm Safety Week is the ideal opportunity to call out to all farmers to work safer and smarter around livestock. People tend to give animals human qualities and forget that animals quickly revert to primal reflex actions when they are threatened or under stress. Animals will fiercely defend their food, shelter, territory and young. When frightened or in pain, animals may react in ways that threaten their, and our, safety.
“Facilities, too, can play a major role in preventing incidents. Good facilities provide a means of controlling animals while allowing easy access for routine chores - all in a safe environment. Often we don’t make adjustments or modify our equipment to make it safer because we are in a hurry or for economic reasons we feel that we should ‘make do’ with what we’ve got.
“There needs to be an element of common sense and safety involved in these decisions – ‘because I’m in a hurry’ is not a good enough reason for poor maintenance of equipment and facilities. Safe handling equipment is more of an investment than an expensive luxury.
‘There was nothing to hint at what was to come’ – Stephen’s story