The importance of safer livestock handling for farmers


According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around six people are killed each year as a result of injuries sustained by cattle. The Farm Safety Partnership has recently launched a national campaign, focusing on safer livestock handling for farmers.

When farmers are focused on running the business, they’re usually just thinking about getting the job done so they can move onto the next task. Accidents are always more likely to happen when you’re in a rush and just a one-second distraction can change everything.

Looking at the claims we have handled at Cornish Mutual, these accidents often occur when someone is in a pen with an animal. A farmer can end up being manoeuvred into a position they can’t get out of, which can result in being crushed. It can happen very quickly. 

Of course an animal’s behaviour can change, depending on the situation. While you might have a good knowledge of the animal, there’s no telling what it will do, especially if it’s put in a position it doesn’t want to be in. Calving can be an especially risky time as a cow will always have that instinct to protect its young.

Farming remains the most dangerous occupation in the UK and accidents involving cattle are the most common cause of fatalities on farms. The HSE has a range of advice to encourage farmers to stay as safe as possible when working with cattle. This includes:

• Having proper handling facilities, which you keep in good working order

• Installing a race and a crush that is suitable for the animals you handle

• Ensuring your workers are trained and competent to work with livestock

• Having a rigorous culling policy for temperamental animals

These kind of accidents are a stark reminder why you sometimes need to pause and think before you act. These are classic cases when a simple risk assessment could lead to a completely different outcome. We know that many farmers put off risk assessments, because they are busy with the day-to-day running of the farm and don’t want to have to deal with additional paperwork. However, risk assessments don’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It could simply be a case of quickly reviewing who interacts with livestock, where, when and how.

Because animals are unpredictable, you should focus on the elements you have control over. This is likely to include ensuring there are escape routes and perhaps installing metalwork to create a barrier between you and your animal. While you can never remove the risk of working with livestock, you can take simple steps to make your farm safer.

Arthur Denton, Claims Team Leader for Cornish Mutual