Safety warning as potential injury claims top £5m
Faced with claims that might end up exceeding £5 million from injuries inflicted by farm animals, the UK’s leading rural insurer yesterday issued a checklist for all those working with livestock.
Richard Percy, chairman of the NFU Mutual, said that many of the attacks on humans by farm animals came unexpectedly. “In my experience, it is always the bull that has shown no aggression in the past that catches you out, everyone stays clear of the grumpy one. So, beware the quiet bull.”
Percy also stressed that it was vital to remember that cattle, particularly bulls, were unpredictable and that the risk of an accident increased when handling livestock took place in confined spaces such as yards, cattle races and when loading cattle on to vehicles.
Another regular cause of cattle attacking humans occurred he said with cows with newly-born calves acting aggressively even if they had never had a history of bad behaviour.
He revealed that the NFU Mutual was currently dealing with a number of claims that could result in settlements up to £5m from people who had received devastating injuries while working with cattle.
“Tragically, some of these people will never work again and the effects of their accidents may well affect the future of their families and farms.
“As a farmer myself, I’m well aware that complacency is the biggest threat to life and limb. When we do a task every day, there’s a real temptation to take shortcuts – putting ourselves at risk by not observing safe working practices.”
In addition to the claims for compensation for injuries, the Mutual pointed out that in the decade to March last year, 81 people had been killed while handling livestock, making this one of the main reasons why agricultural fatalities were so high. One more recent feature in the analysis of the accidents was the number that were now occurring where farmers and farm workers were running large units alone, meaning there was no-one around to help them in the event of an accident.
David Leavesley, safety consultant at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, recommended that farmers used the “Top Ten” livestock handling checklist compiled by the Mutual to help them avoid accidents.
He said none of the advice was new or groundbreaking and every livestock farmer in the land would probably know the points he was making.
“But the trouble is that, when you’re working against the clock and repeating tasks day in, day out, safe practices tend to get forgotten – and that’s when accidents happen.”
His advice included keeping a mobile phone in a pocket where it could be reached if the livestock handler was trapped or injured and telling someone where you would be working as well as making sure the handling equipment was in good working order.
Other advice included culling bad-tempered animals and only those people who were “competent and agile” should be involved in working with cattle.
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