THE Health and Safety Authority (HSA) this week began a month-long intensive farm inspection campaign for the month of March, aimed at reducing the number of accidents resulting in injury and death on farms. Inspectors from the HSA will visit almost 500 farms over the next few weeks and there will be a particular focus on the safe handling of livestock. The month of March is a particularly busy period for calving and the risk of serious injury can be very high, so inspectors will be focusing on the common risks encountered and livestock safety in general.
Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the HSA, said that, although the calving period is a particularly risky time of the year, dangerous situations can be minimised. ‘I would encourage farmers to take time to understand the basics of animal behaviour and be alert for signs of aggression.
‘In particular, care is needed around cows with a new born calf when they can be unpredictable and much more likely to attack. Never turn your back on a cow with a new born, have a planned escape route and keep children and inexperienced handlers well away.
‘The calving area should provide adequate space, be tidy, well-bedded with clean straw and be clearly lit and free of obstructions. Also, well designed calving pens and gates are important and help minimise the direct physical contact between the cow, or heifer, and farmer.’
Pat Griffin added: ‘We are currently in a busy period for calving and the risk of injury is very high. Farmers are working long hours, often with broken sleep, so fatigue and general tiredness can also be a factor.
‘Our message is simple: stay alert, don’t take risks and get help when it’s needed. The types of injuries that can be sustained with livestock attacks are very serious and can be life-threatening.’
A free guidance document, ‘Safe Handling of Cattle on Farms,’ is available on the Authority’s website at www.hsa.ie along with other helpful information and advice on a range of farm safety matters.