Working with livestock may sound like a low-risk industry, but there are
many ways that a worker can be injured while dealing with animals. Raising,
transporting, and preparing livestock includes many steps involving thousands
of workers performing different tasks, many of which involve heavy machinery
and dangerous chemicals that can lead to serious injuries. According to
the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 12,000 non-fatal injuries occurred
in the Animal Production Industry in 2012.
Grain bins and silos contribute a surprising amount of fatalities, with
workers suffering from engulfment (being buried in the grain) or suffocation
from grain dust. In 2010, 26 workers were killed through engulfment in
grain silos, according to
Workers face the possibility of respiratory distress when faced with long-term
exposure to air contaminants. Manure pits release a toxic mix of chemicals
that can cause long-term damage and can carry harmful bioaerosols such
as microorganisms and toxicants. Machinery can release a wide range of
fumes and dust that can also be harmful to workers. Safety equipment can
be used to reduce the harmful effects of these chemicals, include respirators or masks.
Some illnesses can be transferred between animals and humans, and dealing
with large amount of concentrated animals regularly increases the risk
of exposure. In addition, unsanitary conditions increase the risk of any
illnesses. Workers must take diligent care to wash their hands often to
prevent exposure to illness, and employers are responsible for providing
the means for them to do so.
The many types of machinery used in connection to livestock often create
a loud work environment, and workers can face hearing loss if safety precautions
are not taken. Steps can be taken to protect workers, including maintaining
machinery to create as little noise as possible, and providing at-risk
workers with headphones.
While providing a necessary role to our society, many agricultural workers
face risks that are often overlooked. However, many of these hazards can
be reduced or removed through the use of safety procedures and equipment.
It is the responsibility of every employer to provide these items and
protect workers from both short and long-term dangers in the workplace.