It can happen in a split-second and when you least expect it, but accidents can occur at any time. We sometimes get complacent and don’t take that extra step to be aware of an animal’s behavior, wear proper safety equipment, or take the time to review safety protocols with family and coworkers.
A paper published in 2012 titled Livestock Handling-related Injuries and Deaths reads, “Most of the studies show that livestock handling activities are the second or third leading cause of injuries on the farm, causing 12-24 percent of farm injuries. It is estimated that about 30 farmers are killed each year from contact with farm animals, primarily horses and cattle.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 80 percent of farm accidents result from carelessness or failure to safely deal with hazards, and these accidents are avoidable.
To highlight farm and ranch safety awareness, National Farm Safety and Health Week will be Sept. 20-26. National Farm Safety and Health Week is led by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), the National Safety Council’s agricultural partner.
NECAS has scheduled the following daily webinars during National Farm Safety and Health Week:
• Monday, Sept. 21—Tractor safety and rural roadway safety;
• Tuesday, Sept. 22—Overall farmer health;
• Wednesday, Sept. 23—Safety and health for youth in agriculture;
• Thursday, Sept. 24—Emergency preparedness in agriculture; and
• Friday, Sept. 25—Safety and health for women in agriculture.
For webinar details and to register, you can visit the Agrisafe Network’s website at learning.agrisafe.org.
If you cannot attend, now is the time to look at your surroundings and conduct safety training for yourself, co-workers and family.
Some common human injuries due to livestock result from being stepped on, being knocked down, kicked, pinned between the animal and a hard surface, or being bitten.
The Ohio State University publishes a fact sheet titled Working Safely with Livestock. While it mostly pertains to dairy operations, there is information that could be applied to your ranch.
Remember, cattle are color blind and have poor depth perception. “This results in an extreme sensitivity to contrasts, which may cause an animal to balk at shadows or rapid changes from light to dark.” This explains why they might not see objects at feet level and have trouble crossing a gutter, or startle at shadows or items hanging from posts and gates.
Consider livestock traits such as being territorial and maternal instincts when moving animals. Keep young livestock with their mothers and, when moving them to an unfamiliar or new territory, be cautious as they can suddenly be frightened or spooked. Keep noise levels down as their attempts to move away from the noise, and their poor sight could cause them to crash into objects and people.
“Sheep are also considered color blind but do have good depth perception. Instead, sheep have difficulty picking out small details, such as the open space created by a partially opened gate,” the fact sheet states.
Lastly, move slowly around livestock, announce your presence, and always provide yourself an escape route when working with livestock and horses in close quarters.
ATVs are convenient when handling livestock, mending fences, or crossing a field, but they are also responsible for over 93,000 emergency room visits in 2014, according to Ag Safety and Health.
Colorado State University offers the following tips for proper ATV safety when doing chores around the ranch:
• Be extra careful if you have a load on the front or the back of the machine;
• Even if you know your property well, keep an eye out for new environmental hazards like rocks, logs, sinkholes, ice patches, etc.;
• Approach livestock at low speeds to avoid frightening (startling) the animals;
• Be patient—if animals are causing you frustration, don’t act on it. If you do, you’ll overlook hazards that could injure you or the animals;
• Remember, you are eye to eye with the animals. Some ATV riders may appear less imposing to the animals and invite more resistance than if they were on horseback. (Standing on the footrests may make you appear larger);
• Use a trailer to transport heavy loads of posts and tools instead of stacking too much weight onto the ATV;
• Watch your speed— high speeds mean higher chances of losing control, especially if you’re carrying extra weight; and
• Before dismounting, stop ATV completely (preferably on a level surface), set brake, and shift into park.
As children become involved with work around the farm or ranch, it is essential they know the safety protocols and also their limitations. According to National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health, a child dies every three days in a farm-related accident; 13 percent of those are due to contact with animals, and 47 percent involved transportation (including tractors).
A good rule to keep in mind is to make sure kids are assigned to the duties within their abilities based on their size, maturity, and skills to process information and make decisions. Make sure all activities are properly supervised.
For adolescent children, check with your local Extension office for safety training programs on operating equipment you use in your operation.
For more information, please visit the website cultivatesafety.org.
Overall health and safety
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies when it comes to staying healthy, and it applies to working on your operation as it is a very physical activity. Know what personal protection equipment to wear when exposed to dust, gases and pesticides can prevent exposure and injury.
One or more people on the farm or ranch should be trained in first aid and be CPR-certified. Knowing what to do within the first minutes of a farm injury can mean the difference between life and death.
Get regular checkups and know when you are experiencing mental health issues. In these times of economic stress, it is crucial to take a mental break as there are times when your mind is focused elsewhere, causing injuries or leading to substance abuse. Some resources can help farmers and ranchers, from talking to a neighbor, tele-counseling, calling helplines such as the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 or call 311. A healthy body and a healthy mind make a healthy rancher and helps to prevent accidents from occurring. — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor