Considerations for Worker Safety When Handling Livestock

Farming and ranching continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations with more than 28 deaths per 100,000 workers every year, not accounting for those under the age of 16. Most farm accidents occur with tractor work, but don’t discount the risk of working with unpredictable live animals. Two of the major contributing factors for farm deaths are emergency preparedness and age.

Make sure there are contact numbers available for medical assistance. Any time saved is critical at the time of an accident. Injury rates on farms are highest in the age groups under 15 and over 65 – but any one is susceptible. Make special arrangements if necessary to take preparedness actions.

My family was rocked by an accident in 2006. My parents worked side by side on our cattle ranch. On August 18, while sorting cattle, my mother was manning a gate sorting cattle when a calf struck the gate and the result was fatal.

We focus on safe handling for the livestock on the ranch, feedlot, barns or other operations, but how much consideration do we bid to the safety of handlers? Whether it be the cattle, hogs, horses, or any other large animal, there is always a risk involved.

While popular livestock handling recommendations, from those like Temple Grandin, and many modern facilities are designed with the safety of livestock in mind, give considerations to the safety and feasibility of those handling and working around the animals.

Recommendations for Accident Prevention

The following steps are recommended to prevent accidents when handling livestock: (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.

Next time you make 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.

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