What HSA inspectors will be looking for as it plans 400 farm inspections

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

A two-week campaign by the Health and Safety Authority starts on Monday and will involve 400 planned farm inspections, with a focus on safe working with livestock.

After tractors and machinery, accidents involving livestock are the next most common cause of fatalities on Irish farms. Between 2008 and 2017 approximately 13pc of all fatal farm accidents were livestock related, with half of those involving cows and heifers.

This is the first of three targetted farm safety inspection campaigns the HSA plans to carry out this year, with one of vehicle safety being carried out in May and another on safe working at heights planned for October.

With the calving period starting this month and the risk of serious injury can be high. Inspectors from the HSA will be focusing on the common risks encountered and livestock safety in general.

Areas being assessed during the livestock safety campaign include;

•             Is an adequate physical barrier established between the farmer and freshly calved cow when treating or handling calves?

•             Is there an escape plan for animal birthing activity?

•             Is there ongoing investment in animal handling facilities, for example, crush, head scoop and calving gate?

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•             Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

With much of the calving happening during short days, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well positioned lights around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety. Good handling facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important. Calving units with calving gates will ensure safety and reduce stress on farmers and the animal.

Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA says that planning work with safety in mind is particularly important at this busy time on farms.

“During what is now a more concentrated calving period, fatigue and increased stress levels are almost inevitable.

"However, some early planning can make a significant difference. This should include checking over everything that is needed to manage calving while continuing to feed stock. Review the overall tidiness of the yard, the free and safe movement of machinery, the condition of tractors, loaders, diet feeders, calving jacks and availability and placement of fresh bedding. Also clean and well bedded calving units will give you a good start."

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