Rural insurer NFU Mutual has produced a Top Ten checklist of safety measures to help them avoid accidents when working with livestock.

It follows 81 deaths over the last decade

The company said it was highlighting the issue as farmers started to think about housing stock for the winter, putting them at higher risk of accidents.

NFU Mutual Chairman Richard Percy acknowledged that accidents involving livestock have been happening for many years. But fatalities were only part of the story.

“We are concerned that because farmers and farm workers now often run large units alone, which means there is no-one around to help them in the event of an accident.”

NFU Mutual was dealing with a number of claims that could result in settlements up to £5m to help 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,” said Mr Percy.

“As a farmer myself, I’m well aware that complacency is the biggest threat to life and limb,” he told visitors to the Livestock 2012 event at the Birmingham NEC.

“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.

It was vital to remember that cattle – particularly bulls – were unpredictable.

The risk of an accident increased when handling livestock in confined spaces such as yards, cattle races and when loading cattle onto vehicles, said Mr Percy.

“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.

“Cows with newly born calves can also act aggressively having never had a history of bad behaviour.”

NFU Mutual said many farmers would be familiar with the safety measures on its checklist.

But they were worth repeating because safe practices were often forgotten when tasks were repeated day-in day-out and often in a rush.

PLUS TOP TEN:  Livestock handling safety checklist

* Always tell a relative or friend where you will be working
* Keep your mobile phone in a chest pocket so you can call for help
* Always take a moment to consider the risks of a task
* Work out an escape route or refuge area
* Only allow people who are competent and agile to handle cattle
* Wear suitable protective clothing
* Use proper handling facilities, which you keep in good working order
* Put in place a culling policy for fractious or dangerous animals
* No one should ever enter a bull pen when the bull is loose
* Avoid keeping cows with calves or bulls in fields with public access

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