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Reduce the Risk of Livestock Farm Accidents

Fri 29 March 2019

The Health and Safety Considerations which Farmers Need to Consider at Turnout.

To avoid injuries and, at worst, a fatal accident, farmers are being urged to consider the potential risks posed to people and their animals whilst on their property. Graeme Bruce, Director of YoungsRPS, gives some well-timed advice:

“Agricultural accidents continue to make the headlines. In 2017/8, 24% of the 33 deaths on UK farms involved livestock, so as we head towards the Spring turnout of livestock, it seems appropriate that we should look at what can be done to prevent this.

Turnout of cattle, lambing and spring calving all bring with them circumstances which could lead to accidents, so it is paramount that farmers know that the onus is on them to minimise the risk of an accident.

So, what can you do? First, step back - what are the risks and what can be done to reduce them? Although there is no obligation to carry out a formal risk assessment if you have less than five employees, it is good practice, and shows your intent of making your property safe.

If there is a public right of way through your land, the public have just that – a right. They need to enjoy this right without being exposed to danger.

Farm animals can be dangerous. You must remember that the public may have had no exposure to them and their dangers. You should aim to provide an environment that is safe.

Once the risk areas are identified, what you can do? Certain situations naturally increase the risk of aggressive behaviours – calving, if any animal is ill, on heat, or disturbed (perhaps by a dog off the lead). You could avoid grazing animals in fields with public rights of way. If this isn’t possible, look at how you can mitigate the risks: -

  • Dairy bulls should never be in a field with a public right of way and beef bulls only if with cows and heifers.
  • Consider the temperament of the animals, this is something which is in your interest as manager of the animal.
  • Observe behaviour of recently purchased animals before turning out in a field with public access.
  • Manage your grazing rotation to avoid higher risks periods such as during the school holidays.
  • Position troughs, feeding areas and any handling facilities away from footpaths to minimise the risk.

Although no substitute for reducing risk, signage can provide effective warnings, but must not deter the public from enjoying their rights. They must be clear and only used when the animals are present.

If available, you could offer an alternative path. This cannot replace the right of way but gives people a choice should they feel unsafe. You should treat this as a public right of way, so notify your insurers and complete a map, statement and statutory declaration under Section 31 (6) of the Highway Act 1980 to ensure no extra right of way is created. This provision helps landowners protect themselves from ‘claims’ for Public Rights of Way. 

You could also fence off the right of way. The pathway must be unobstructed, and if electrified, fenced well back and clearly marked.

A lot of this is common sense, but I feel that this is a timely opportunity to be reminded of the very important issue of farm safety and of the risks that livestock may present to the public, yourself, your family and your employees. It’s easy to get complacent.”