THE Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is in the middle of a fortnight-long intensive farm inspection campaign, which began on Monday last, February 12th, with the focus on safe working with livestock.
After tractors and machinery, accidents involving livestock are the next most common cause of fatalities on Irish farms. In the period 2008 - 2017 approximately 13% of all fatal farm accidents were livestock related, with half of those involving cows and heifers.
The calving period begins in February and the risk of serious injury can be high. There are 400 inspections planned with inspectors from the HSA focusing on the common risks encountered and livestock safety in general.
Areas being assessed during the livestock safety campaign include:
• Is an adequate physical barrier established between the farmer and freshly-calved cow when treating or handling calves?
• Is there an escape plan for animal birthing activity?
• Is there ongoing investment in animal handling facilities, for example, crush, head scoop and calving gate?
• Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?
With much of the calving happening during short days, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well-positioned lights around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety.
Good handling facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important. Calving units with calving gates will ensure safety and reduce stress on farmers and the animal. Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HAS, says that planning work with safety in mind is particularly important at this busy time on farms, ‘During what is now a more concentrated calving period, fatigue and increased stress levels are almost inevitable. However, some early planning can make a significant difference.
‘This should include checking over everything that is needed to manage calving while continuing to feed stock. Review the overall tidiness of the yard, the free and safe movement of machinery, the condition of tractors, loaders, diet feeders, calving jacks and availability and placement of fresh bedding. Also, clean and well bedded calving units will give you a good start.’
The Health and Safety Authority will undertake three targeted agriculture inspection campaigns during 2018:
• February - ‘Livestock Safety’
• May - ‘Vehicle Safety’
• October - ‘Safe Working at Heights’
A free guidance document, ‘Safe Handling of Cattle on Farms,’ is available on the Authority’s website at www.hsa.ie.