The third annual Farm Safety Week from 6-10 July offers five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers, supported by the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.
Against the background of the annual Livestock event at Birmingham’s NEC, day four of Farm Safety Week throws the spotlight on livestock and, in particular, crush injuries. Handling cattle always involves a risk of injury, so today it is time to think about how you can improve your livestock handling system and make it safer and more efficient.
According to Roberta Simmons, President of YFCU and Farm Safety Partnership member: “In the last 15 years, 25 per cent of all farming fatalities in Northern Ireland are due to livestock-related incidents on farms and on average, one farmer a year is killed by a bull in Northern Ireland. Handling livestock always involves risks, from crushing to kicking and butting.”
One person who considers himself lucky to have survived such an attack is Alexander Martin. Alexander knows all too well the effect an incident like this can have on him, his family and on his future as a farmer.
Alexander, who vividly remembers the accident, had been keeping a bull with a small batch of cows in a cubicle house on his yard. He noticed that there was a cow in heat and felt that it would be a good time to move the bull and cow into a house of their own. He entered the shed to get the pair out and gave the cow a tap to get her moving.
“Whenever I did that I saw that the bull was turning around towards me so I looked to see how I might get away if he kept coming. I turned round to make my escape and as I did he banged my back and with the one lift had me straight up against the wall,” He explained.
The bull continued to screw his head against Alexander’s leg. Alexander’s leg was badly bruised and burnt with a substantial amount of muscle damage. His collarbone was also left broken due to initial impact with the wall.
Alexander continued: “Had the bull put the pressure on my upper body that he was putting on my leg I have no doubt that I would have been destroyed.”
The injuries took 3-6 months to heal and had a serious implications for the rest of the family as Alexander had to hire people during that time to run his farm.
As the bull had shown signs of aggression, and because Alexander didn’t have a proper bullpen to house the bull, he moved it off the farm for slaughter as soon as it was possible.
Although he has now made a good recovery, the accident has made Alexander much more cautious about how he handles bulls, and he is keen to share his experience with other farmers to help educate them on how to protect themselves.
He added: “I was caught keeping my eye fixed on the bull and that was the thing that really surprised me, that even when watching him, he got me.”
Roberta added: “Farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from livestock related accidents. Livestock can be unpredictable and there is always a risk from crushing, kicking, butting or goring. Don’t learn safety by accident. When handling livestock, make sure you have proper handling facilities that are well maintained and in good working order, and that your workers are trained and competent. Never put an inexperienced handler or a child at risk with cattle. Always take the time to think about what you are doing and what might go wrong as making a few simple checks could actually save a life – maybe your own!”
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