The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging all vets, veterinary employers and farmers to read and act on its Farm Health and Safety guide and information leaflets as BVA's Spring 2015 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey reveals that over half of vets (53%) working with production animals on farms have suffered injuries in the last twelve months. The figures are released to coincide with the start of Farm Safety Week (6-10 July).
Almost 20% (18.8%) of production animal vets rated the injuries as very or quite severe. By far the most common injury was bruising caused by kicks, with almost 85% (84.8%) of production animal vets who had been injured reporting this. Other injuries reported included lacerations, crush injuries, head injuries caused by kicks and fractures caused by kicks.
Vets responding to the survey described some of the injuries they had received:
- "Kicked in the side of the head while castrating a calf."
- "Most common injuries involve cattle crushes and squashed body parts."
- "Bruised and shocked - both attacks on same farm doing whole herd testing on separate bulls, one stock and one beef bull. Both attacked from behind on a farm with poor facilities."
BVA's resources include a Farm Health and Safety guide and risk assessment form for veterinary practices and an information leaflet for farmers.
For veterinary practices
The Farm Health and Safety guide includes information about:
- the Acts and Regulations aimed at reducing on farm injuries and deaths
- how to develop a practice policy including management of hazards and risks
- a list of the most common risks to assess
- reporting requirements when accidents occur
The guide also includes a section for employees identifying key points and principles to help them meet health and safety standards when working on farms.
Accompanying the Farm Health and Safety guide a risk assessment form gives employees an overview of the risks on each farm to forewarn them of potential problems. It also encourages effective communication with the client before attending the premises to make the visit as efficient as possible.
BVA members can download these resources at http://www.bva.co.uk/Workplace-guidance/Practice-management/farm-health-and-safety/
BVA's client advice leaflet 'Is your farm a safe place to work?' is publicly available and can be downloaded from the BVA website's You and Your Vet section at http://www.bva.co.uk/You-and-your-vet.
Addressing the farmer's responsibility to keep vets and anyone working on their farm safe the leaflet describes what should be in place for the vet to operate safely on the farm and points to further information. The leaflet can be used for vets and farmers to start a discussion about minimising avoidable risks on farm.
BVA President John Blackwell emphasised the importance of all parties taking health and safety on farm seriously:
"These figures show the risk of injury that production animal vets run in the course of their work. Health and safety assessments can reduce these injuries and save lives by informing action plans that help minimise the risks. Farmers and vets up and down the country have seen colleagues injured on farms and consequently unable to work. Many injuries are avoidable if veterinary practices, their employees and farmers all take action to minimise the risks.
"I want veterinary practices to understand their responsibilities and make use of our resources to help protect their employees on farm visits. I want vets going out on farms to keep updating existing risk assessments to keep their colleagues and themselves safe. I hope the client leaflet helps vets and farmers to start the conversation and take action to reduce the risks."