Thursday 21st May 2015
It’s a jungle out there: do you
know your obligations when
working with animals?
In today's Health & Safety Bulletin:
- Working with animals: are you managing all the risks?
You can design a machine or tool to be safe, reliable and user-friendly. You can train its operator to use it properly, and keep it well-maintained. With a little elbow grease, a lot can be done to eliminate risk when you’re working with inanimate objects.
What about a horse? Or a dog? Or a lion? Or a snake? Speaking personally, give me high-pressure water jetting equipment or a cordless drill any day over a snake.|
People who choose to work with animals often have a unique combination of emotional intelligence and intuition that makes them great at their job. But animals are still unpredictable.
There are plenty of examples of kind, professional trainers or keepers being seriously injured or even killed when something unexpected causes an animal to stampede, panic or lash out.
And then there’s the question of how you protect other workers and members of the public from the risks animals can present in the workplace. What happens if they get loose?
Depending on the situation, there’s plenty you can do for the animal, for the worker, and for the enclosure or environment they will be kept in to make sure that everyone is safe.
Working with animals has become a more complex subject as Australia’s health and safety and animal welfare obligations have developed. Today, Health & Safety Handbook Editor-in-Chief Michael Selinger talks about what one regulator is doing to provide more education and information for working with horses, and explains why the general principles can also apply to all creatures great and small.
Editor, Health & Safety Bulletin
Working with animals: are you
managing all the risks?
Last month, I told you about a recent case from the United Kingdom where a member of the public was almost killed by cows who trampled her as she was walking along a public footpath. As you might remember, the farmer who owned the cows was prosecuted.
The basis for the prosecution was that the path was well used by locals, and that the farmer had not assessed the risk to members of the public from putting cows with calves in the field.
|But what if your business often works with animals, or there are occasions when your workers are exposed to animals such as dogs or horses?|
This can occur in a variety of ways. It could be a one-off occasion, such as your business organising a family event which includes a petting zoo. At the other end of the scale are those businesses that interact regularly with animals as part of their everyday business or undertaking.
The risks posed by animals can be significant. That’s partly because of the serious nature of any potential injuries, but also because animals, unlike plant or machinery, are largely unpredictable. The duty to protect workers requires you take reasonably practicable steps to control foreseeable risks.
And as we saw from the UK case, the courts will consider that the risk of injury from animals is almost always foreseeable, even if the precise manner in which the injury occurs could not have been foreseen.
As an example of how to manage regular interaction with animals, WorkCover NSW recently published a video which provides helpful guidance on minimising the risks posed to workers and others who interact with horses.
This initiative came on the back of alarming data indicating that 98 people in Australia died from horse related incidents between 2000 and 2012. It is estimated that every day, one person is hospitalised in Australia from a horse related incident.
The guide can be viewed at: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/news/safety-alert/working-with-horses
Although this video focuses on working with horses, its messages can apply to a number of situations. Whatever the animal, you should:
These are all straightforward steps to implement. All businesses whose staff may interact with animals as part of their everyday work practices should aim to have them in place.
- provide an adequate environment for the animal to be housed or located;
- ensure that the animal is fit and trained for the relevant activity;
- familiarise the animal with the environment in which they will be working;
- assess the capability of any workers that will engage with the animal, assessing their expertise, particularly young or inexperienced workers;
- ensure workers are supervised by a competent supervisor;
- develop safe procedures for your work with the animal, including how you work around the animal, and;
- use appropriate safety equipment (e.g., helmets).
In the case of irregular contact with animals, a risk assessment should be undertaken to ensure that other practicable steps can be implemented so as not to expose workers to harm.
Health & Safety Handbook
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