We talk a lot about safe handing for the livestock on the ranch, feedlot, barns or other operations, but do we give much consideration to the safety of the handlers? Whether it be the cattle, hogs, or horses, there is always a risk involved. This issue is very important to me because I lost my mother while she was sorting cattle four years ago this week.

It does not matter how modern, cutting edge, or animal-friendly the facilities may be, that does not mean they are safe working facilities. Do the gates swing flat against the fences? Are the sorting gates solid? Are the fences stout and sturdy? Is there an easy escape route in tight places? These and so many more things are often not thought about when designing a new livestock facility.

I really do like what people like Temple Grandin have done to improve the design of working pens and the ease of animal movement, but there is a lot to be said for practicality. Solid fences may be great to prevent cattle from seeing distractions, but when was the last time you tried to jump one while getting away from a stirred up yearling? Curved alleys and chutes may work great with the animal’s natural movement, but can you see that calf turning back around the next bend? Rattle paddles may be great for replacing hotshots and sticks, but they sure make a sick animal turn from flight to fright in a hurry.

Each year farm accidents claim more than 1,300 lives and result in more than 120,000 injuries. Most farm accidents occur with tractor work, but don’t let that discount the risk of working with unpredictable, live animals. Two of the major contributing factors for farm deaths is emergency preparedness and age. Make sure there are contact numbers available for medical assistance. Any time saved is critical in the time of an accident. Injury rates on farms are highest in the age groups under 15 and over 65. Make special arrangements if necessary to take preparedness actions.

Recommendations for Accident Prevention
The following steps are recommended: (OKSTATE OSHA Fact Sheet)

  • Make accident prevention a management as well as a personal goal. Develop an awareness of hazards on the farm and make a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires, and adverse health effects from chemical exposures.
  • Reduce your risk of injury and illness with preventive measures. Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals. Follow instructions on product labels for safe use, handling, and storage.
  • Conduct routine inspections of your equipment to determine problems and potential failures that may contribute to or cause an accident.
  • Conduct meetings with employees and family members to assess safety hazards, discuss potential accident situations, and outline emergency procedures.
  • Be especially alert to hazards that may affect children and the elderly.
  • Minimize hazards by careful selection of products you buy, by providing good maintenance of tools, buildings, and equipment, and establishing good housekeeping procedures.
  • Provide rollover protective structures, protective enclosures, or protective frames as appropriate for farm tractors.
  • Use seat belts while the tractor is in operation.
  • Make sure guards for farm equipment are put back on after maintenance to protect workers from moving machinery parts.
  • Review material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and labels that come with chemical products.

So the next time you make some improvements on your working facilities, keep practicality in mind. Are the improvements making the area a safer place to work? Learn from the past and not the hard way. No animal is worth a human life.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.”

I do everything thing in your memory. Thank you for all you taught me mom. KJG 1968-2006