HSA launches inspection campaign focusing on livestock handling safety ahead of peak calving season

20th January 2023

Over the last 10 years, 190 people have lost their lives in farming related work activity in Ireland. Of these fatalities, 34 involved livestock

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin a two-week farm safety inspection campaign on Monday 23rd 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, 190 people have lost their lives in farming related work activity in Ireland. Of these fatalities, 34 involved livestock. Carrying out risk assessments on the work to be done and planning ahead are essential when handling livestock. Well-designed and maintained handling facilities are key factors for the safe handling of all livestock and prevention of injury to handlers. Many serious injuries involving livestock handling could be prevented with better handling facilities.  

According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, “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 holding areas and calving facilities where cows can be monitored remotely are important and can help reduce farmer fatigue. Well-prepared calving units with clean bedding, calving gates, planned escape routes and the necessary equipment will ensure safety and reduce stress. With much of calving happening during short and dark evenings, 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”. 

Key questions to ask whilst working with livestock:

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

Pat Griffin added, “Working with livestock is a key injury trigger and farmers must prioritise their physical safety. 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 calving time. Clean and organised yards will help eliminate injury from slips, trip and falls and also allows all the necessary items to be easily found and help prevent injury or even death.” 

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.


For further information please contact Aoife Moroney Ward at the HSA press office on 086 8036141 or email pressoffice@hsa.ie