HSA launches inspection campaign focusing on livestock safety

21st January 2022

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin a two-week intensive farm safety inspection campaign on Monday 24th January with a focus on the safe management of livestock during calving season when the risk of injury to farmers increases significantly.  

Over the last 10 years, 196 people have lost their lives in farming related work activity in Ireland. Of these fatalities, 38 involved livestock. In 2021 alone, working with cattle accounted for 3 fatalities.

According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority “Although 2021 saw a significant decline in farm fatalities, there are still far too many deaths in the agriculture sector as well as a substantial number of very serious injuries. Working with livestock is a key incident trigger and farmers must make their physical safety an absolute priority. During this time of year, which includes the calving period, increased fatigue and stress levels are common. However, early planning and preparation can make a significant difference in the safe management of livestock and help prevent injury or even death”.

Key questions to ask whilst working with livestock:

  • Is there a plan in place to minimise the risk of attack?
  • Has an adequate physical barrier been established between the farmer and the freshly calved cow when tagging, treating and handling calves?
  • Is there adequate lighting in the yard and farm buildings?
  • Do you need help? Are the extra resources trained and experienced? 
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

Pat Griffin added, “We know that, on dairy farms in particular, farmers may be managing larger herds of livestock. There must therefore be enough space and shelter for the number, size and class of cattle being held. During this calving season we urge farmers to plan ahead and put safety measures in place as cows, and in particular heifers, can be unpredictable before, during or after calving and may become aggressive. 

Good calving facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important and can help reduce farmer fatigue. Well-prepared calving units with clean bedding, calving gates and the necessary equipment will ensure safety and reduce stress both on farmers and on the animal. With much of calving happening during short and often dull days, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well-positioned lights in calving units and around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety”. 

The HSA offers a range of free guidance. Quicks links to relevant guides are list below

To avail of more advice and guidance material in relation to livestock and many other farm safety hazards visit the HSA website at www.hsa.ie.