The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging vets, veterinary employers and farmers to take action to minimise farm health and safety risks.
The call comes following last week’s Farm Safety Week, which revealed that more than six in10 (61%) vets working with production animals on farms suffered injuries in a 12-month snapshot reported last year. A similar number of vets working in equine practice (65%) and mixed practice (66%) were also injured by animals in the course of their work.
BVA president Simon Doherty shared his own first-hand experience with on-farm injuries and their career-changing impact:
“I’ve been stood on, kicked and had my arm broken whilst working with cattle. I’ve had problems with my back due to the physical aspects of repeated lambings and calvings – particularly at night-time – and when I ruptured a spinal ligament calving a heifer with a uterine torsion, the injury was serious enough that I could no longer continue working in large animal practice.”
Mr Doherty emphasised the importance of all parties taking health and safety on farm seriously.
He said: “These figures show the serious risk of injury that production animal vets run in the course of their work, even when handling facilities are relatively good. Animals on a farm can be large, heavy and unpredictable, and vets up and down the country have seen colleagues injured on farms and frequently unable to work as a result.
“Health and safety assessments by farmers, vets and veterinary employers can reduce these injuries and save lives. Safe and well-maintained facilities and restraining equipment, such as cattle crushes, pens, gates and safe escape routes, are also key to reducing injuries to humans as well as animals. I’d encourage farmers and vets to start the conversation and take action to minimise avoidable risks.”
Mr Doherty added: “I would also ask vets going out on farms to keep updating existing risk assessments to keep their colleagues and themselves safe, and all veterinary practices to make use of our Farm Health and Safety guide to develop action plans.”