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

Thursday 18th January 2024

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin a two-week farm safety inspection campaign on Monday 22nd January with a focus on the safe management of livestock during calving season when the risk of injury to farmers increases significantly.

  • In the last 5 years, 80 people have lost their lives in farm related work activity in Ireland. Of these fatalities, 18 involved working with livestock.
  • In 2023 there were 16 farming fatalities and 5 of these involved livestock. 

According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority;

“The Agriculture sector can be a hazardous working environment and working with livestock continues to be a significant trigger in work-related fatalities on Irish farms. Farmers should review the risks, ensuring appropriate controls for safety are in place. Farmers should also monitor and manage their fatigue and stress levels at this time of year. These steps can prevent serious injury and 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 handling facilities including calving boxes adequate for your herd size?
  • Are you wearing arm length gloves and washable protective clothing and boots to avoid zoonotic infections during calving?
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

Many farmers suffer serious or fatal injuries while attending cows at calving time. Work practices such as taking a newborn calf from a cow, hand milking, navel dipping, and stomach tubing pose a risk of injury.

Pat Griffin continued “Never turn your back on cows with newborn calves. The cow may perceive you as a threat and attack. We know that long hours and prolonged night work increases the risk of accidents during this busy time due to fatigue. We advise that if you are fatigued, you should seek assistance and get more rest. We encourage farmers to read our guidance and put preventative control measures in place to ensure safety on their farms during this calving season.”

Please see links to further relevant guidance 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.