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Animal handling

Animals and livestock can cause both injury and illness to anyone working with or around them. Workers must take caution when working around animals and use safe work procedures when handling them.

The risks

Working with or around animals, workers can experience injury and/or illness. Animals can kick and bite, step on a worker, or squeeze a worker against a wall or fence, causing serious — and sometimes fatal — injuries.

Some animals, especially if they're indoors and in large numbers, can create enough noise to damage a worker's hearing.

Animals can also transmit illness and disease through their blood, urine, or feces. On the jobsite, this means even those who don't work directly with animals may be at risk for illness.

How to reduce the risks

Anyone who works with or around animals and livestock should have a strong understanding of animal behaviour. Employers should create a health and safety plan that includes orientation, education, and training for their workers on safe work procedures. Supervision is also a critical element to ensure workers' safety. Employers should always be looking at ways to control the hazards their workers are exposed to. Design of animal-handling facilities can reduce the risk of injuries resulting from animals.

When choosing risk controls, start by asking yourself the questions in the following steps. The steps are listed in order of effectiveness

  1. 1


    Eliminating the hazard by substituting a safer process or material, where possible, is the most effective control. A key question to ask is:

    • Can an automated or mechanical process be used so workers can avoid being in a potentially hazardous situation with livestock or other animals?
  2. 2

    Engineering controls

    Making physical modifications to facilities, equipment, and processes can reduce exposure. A question to consider is:

    • Are animal enclosures designed to reduce the risk of injury to workers?
    • Are animal enclosures designed to allow enough room for workers to escape in the event of an emergency?
  3. 3

    Administrative controls

    These involve involve the use of policies or written safe work procedures to minimize exposure to a hazard. Administrative controls include reducing exposure time, and training and educating workers. As an employer, you may decide to adopt a company policy that requires everyone to follow specific procedures to reduce the risk of injury. Supervising workers is essential for administrative controls. Some questions to consider:

    • Can the job be changed to minimize exposure time to animals?
    • Have specific safe work procedures been developed for tasks involving animals?
    • Have workers been trained on safe work procedures?
    • Are supervisors ensuring workers are competent in their animal handling duties?
  4. 4

    Personal protective equipment

    This is the least effective control. When used, there must always be at least one other control in place. Some questions to consider:

    • Are workers using the correct footwear, gloves, eyewear, and respirators when working with livestock?
    • Has personal protective equipment been tested to make sure it's working properly?