You are required by law to
assess and control the risks associated with your livestock, so far
as is reasonably practicable. Anyone working with animals should be
in good health, properly trained and use appropriate equipment and
Each type of animal has unique
territorial instincts, sensitivity to noise and vision
characteristics, such as colour-blindness, poor depth perception or
extreme sensitivity to contrasts. Understanding how an animal sees
the world will help you to predict its behaviour and therefore
enhance your safety.
Handling cattle always involves a risk
of injury from crushing, kicking, butting or goring. To reduce that
risk, you should ensure that you have proper handling facilities
and that they are kept in good working order. Attempting to carry
out stock tasks on unrestrained cattle or with improvised equipment
is particularly dangerous. Animals that are not handled frequently,
such as those from hills or moorland, also present a higher level
Bulls make up a tiny proportion of the
cattle population but are responsible for about half of all
cattle-related human fatalities. They must therefore always be
treated with a great deal of respect.
Implement reasonable practical ways of
controlling hazards to walkers or anyone who uses public rights of
way that cross fields containing cattle. Locate handling and
feeding areas away from public rights of way. It is against the law
to keep a bull from a recognised dairy breed in a field that has a
pubic right of way across it. Bulls from other breeds are also
banned unless accompanied by cows or heifers. Electrified stock
fencing needs to have warning signs if situated near public rights
Race and crush
Ensure that there is sufficient room in
the collecting pen for animals to move freely and that there is a
wide, funnel-shaped entry to the race. Cattle prefer to move into
lighter areas and need to see clearly into the crush and beyond if
they are to move forward freely. Races may be straight or curved
but avoid tight turns. The sides need to be high enough to prevent
animals from jumping over them and should be firmly secured to the
ground and to each other.
The crush should have a locking gate
and yoke that allows you to firmly hold the animal's head. Always
use a rump rail, chain or bar to minimise forward and backward
movement. Consider the use of an anti-kicking device. Gates should
open smoothly and with a minimum of noise and the floor should be
slip-resistant. Never work on an animal in the crush with an
unsecured animal waiting in the race behind.
Sheep and pigs
Sheep are generally docile animals, but
often jump when approached from the front, and have therefore been
known to break legs and cause falls leading to head injuries. Rams
tend to be highly unpredictable and aggressive. Ewes are very
protective of their young, as are sows, which can also be
aggressive during pregnancy. During lambing, precautions should be
taken to prevent contact between pregnant women and pregnant ewes.
Contact with ewes' afterbirth infected with ovine chlamydiosis can
cause abortion in humans. Infection can also be passed through
soiled work clothes.
People working with poultry inhale many
different airborne particles, collectively known as poultry dust.
It is classed as a substance hazardous to health, and it affects
the respiratory system, causing symptoms including sore throats,
coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, bronchitis and occupational
asthma. All aspects of work with poultry can generate poultry dust,
so respiratory protective equipment (RPE) must always be worn,
unless you are in a fully enclosed ventilated cab. If you use RPE
that relies on a good face seal to be effective, your respirator
must be face-fit tested. Facial hair can adversely affect the
performance of RPEs.
All farm animals naturally carry a
range of diseases, some of which can also affect humans. All
animals, whether livestock, working animals, wild animals or pets,
should be considered potential carriers. Livestock should be
checked for disease regularly, and any new stock should also be
High standards of general hygiene, in
particular relating to young animals and cleanliness of drinking
water, can be very effective in preventing the spread of disease.
Work closely with your vet to develop effective solutions for your
particular needs. Always wear personal protective equipment when
dealing with infected animals or when assisting animals to give
birth, and wear face protection, for eyes and mouth, if there is
any danger of splashing.
If you think you may have contracted a
disease from an animal, consult a doctor immediately. If you open
your farm to the public, you should take special precautions to
make sure that they are not exposed to infection.
Take a look at our handling livestock
Handling livestock safely
Cornish Mutual's video for staying safe around livestock, as part of our FarmSafe initiative.
Livestock - Sources of further information (HSE)
Safe cattle handling equipment (HSE)
Handling and housing cattle (HSE)
Controlling exposure to poultry dust (HSE)
Common zoonoses in agriculture (HSE)
Cattle and public access in England and Wales (HSE)