‘Don’t get caught out by bulls’ HSENI warns farmers

Northern Ireland’s Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) has launched its second Farm Safe Essential message, which urges farmers not to “get caught out by bulls”.

The message warns farmers to “plan a safe space” when working with bulls and freshly-calved cows.

Attacks by bulls and newly-calved cows are one of the most common causes of fatalities and major injuries on the region’s farms.

In 2018, four farmers were killed in Northern Ireland in incidents involving livestock. No farmers were killed in last year. However, Camilla Mackey, principal inspector of HSENI’s farm safety team, explained this was unusual.

“Since 2016, nine farmers were killed involving cattle and five out of those nine were bull attacks. Of those five killed by bulls, all were male aged between 53 and 75 years old,” she said.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg. If you multiply the number of people killed by 10, that’s how many we reckon would have have been serious enough to have been hospitalised or to have been injured seriously enough to have needed to take several days off work. Multiply that by 10 again and you have the [number of] kicks and bruises.”

The Farm Safe Essentials messages are part of a new approach to farm safety messaging taken by HSENI.

The series aims to drill down into the key safety issues behind some of the main causes of serious accidents and deaths on the region’s farms.

The first Farm Safe Essentials message, ‘No Brakes, No Chance’, was launched during this year’s Farm Safety Week and encouraged the farming community to inspect and maintain their vehicles’ brakes regularly.

‘Don’t be caught out by bulls’

The second message, ‘Plan Safe Spaces – Don’t be caught out by Bulls’, encourages the farming community to consider the risks before entering a space with a bull.

Over familiarity and complacency when working with bulls, combined with not having a safe route of escape when an attack happens, are frequent contributors to accidents, a spokesman for HSENI explained.

The key safety messages for working with bulls are:

  • Never trust a bull, always stay alert;
  • All breeds of bull are dangerous and can kill;
  • All bulls should be ringed from 10 months old, never ring your own bull;
  • If a bull shows any signs of aggression the farmer must cull it at the earliest opportunity;
  • A purpose-built bullpen is essential for dairy-bred bulls;
  • Farmers must have adequate handling facilities for their bull;
  • Never let the bull into the milking parlour with the cows;
  • When working with a bull work in pairs or let someone know where you are and carry a mobile phone in case of emergency;
  • When checking livestock and a bull in a field use a vehicle which can act as a refuge in case of emergency;
  • Always plan an escape route.