Safety inspection campaign gets underway

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The Health and Safety Authority in the Republic of Ireland has begun an intensive farm safety inspection campaign with a focus on the safe management of livestock during calving season when the risk of injury to farmers increases significantly.

Livestock is the number one cause of accidents on Irish farms accounting for 42% of all injuries. In relation to fatalities, incidents involving livestock are the second most common cause.

In the 10 year period 2009 - 2018, 16% of all fatal farm accidents (33 deaths) were livestock related, with over half of these (18 deaths) involving cows and heifers.

According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority “Although 2018 saw a 40% decline in farm fatalities, there are still far too many deaths in the agriculture sector as well as a substantial number of very serious injuries.

“Working with livestock is a key incident trigger and there is no room for complacency amongst farmers. During calving period, increased fatigue and stress levels are common.

“However, early planning and preparation can make a significant difference in the safe management of livestock and help prevent injury or even death.”

Key areas of focus during the inspection campaign will include:

- Is there a plan in place to minimise the risk of attack from a cow when handling a calf to tag, dip navel or stomach tube?

- Has an adequate physical barrier been established between the farmer and the freshly calved cow when tagging, treating and handling calves?

- Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

Pat Griffin added: “Good handling facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important and can help reduce farmer fatigue.

“Well-prepared calving units with clean bedding, calving gates and the necessary equipment will ensure safety and reduce stress both on farmers and on the animal. With much of calving happening during short and often dull days, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well-positioned lights in calving units and around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety.”

A wide range of free guidance material in relation to livestock and many other farm safety hazards is available on the Authority’s website at www.hsa.ie.