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Livestock safety ahead of calving season key focus of HSA campaign

Livestock safety ahead of calving season key focus of HSA campaign

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin a two week farm safety inspection campaign on Monday, January 22, with a focus on the safe management of livestock during calving season when the risk of injury to farmers increases significantly.

In the last five years, 80 people have lost their lives in farm related work activity in Ireland. Of these fatalities, 18 involved working with livestock. In 2023, there were 16 farming fatalities and five of these involved livestock.

Speaking ahead of the inspection campaign, Pat Griffin, Senior Inspection with the Health and Safety Authority, said: “The agriculture sector can be a hazardous working environment and working with livestock continues to be a significant trigger in work-related fatalities on Irish farms.

“Farmers should review the risks, ensuring appropriate controls for safety are in place. Farmers should also monitor and manage their fatigue and stress levels at this time of year. These steps can prevent serious injury and even death.”

The HSA has compiled a list of key questions farmers should ask when working with livestock, these include:

  • Is there a plan in place to minimise the risk of attack?
  • Has an adequate physical barrier been established between the farmer and the freshly-calved cow when tagging, treating, and handling calves?
  • Is there adequate lighting in the yard and farm buildings?
  • Do you need help? Are the extra resources trained and experienced?
  • Are handling facilities, including calving boxes, adequate for your herd size?
  • Are you wearing arm length gloves and washable protective clothing and boots to avoid zoonotic infections during calving?
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

Many farmers suffer serious or fatal injuries while attending cows at calving time. Work practices such as taking a newborn calf from a cow, hand milking, navel dipping, and stomach tubing pose a risk of injury.

Griffin continued with the following advice: “Never turn your back on cows with newborn calves. The cow may perceive you as a threat and attack. We know that long hours and prolonged night work increases the risk of accidents during this busy time due to fatigue. We advise that if you are fatigued, you should seek assistance and get more rest. We encourage farmers to read our guidance and put preventative control measures in place to ensure safety on their farms during this calving season.”

To avail of more advice and guidance material in relation to livestock and many other farm safety hazards visit the HSA website.

Also read: Make safety at calving a priority for 2024