The number of issues highlighted below demonstrate some of the key areas that need to be considered in terms of safety on all poultry farms.

Manual handling

About one-third of all reported accidents are due to poor manual handling. Most manual handling accidents result in back injury.

Lifting heavy loads results in arthritis of joints, particularly hip and knee joints. Damage is also caused to tendons, ligaments and muscles. Injuries can result from manual handling due to the work itself, the load, the work environment, or the individual’s ability.

Twisting your spine while lifting or carrying a load is particularly dangerous. For small-scale poultry producers, there is a lot of manual handling and training should be part and parcel of any employee on the farm.

Dust and spores

Dust and spores cause very severe illness. Poultry farmers and producers often work in enclosed areas that can have a lot of dust or sources of dust spores. Sources of dust and spores include mouldy hay, straw or grain, poultry feathers and droppings and dust in intensive livestock houses.

Exposure to these materials can cause both short-term effects (including irritation, bronchitis and breathlessness), and long-term effects (including asthma chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, weight loss, farmer’s lung and sensitisation).

Sensitisation is very serious as any exposure in the future will cause a health effect. Always wear the proper protective clothing and mask.


A range of serious illnesses can be caught from animals and contaminated material. Bacteria, viruses and fungi can cause illness if exposure occurs. Infection can arise from swallowing or by penetrating the skin. Contamination through cuts or broken skin is the most likely source of infection.

Contact with materials contaminated with rat’s urine can cause Weil’s disease, which is potentially fatal. Again protective clothing and proper protective clothing as well as covering cuts and washing will protect you from infection.


Exposure to noise above a certain level (80dB) over extended periods causes hearing damage. As a general rule, if the noise is such that it is difficult to hear someone talking in a normal voice, noise levels are at damaging levels. Tractors, animals, chainsaws, and machinery can all produce noise levels which can over time permanently damage your hearing. Ear muffs will protect you from hearing loss.


Chemicals pose a risk by different routes including inhalation, ingestion and absorption. The risk posed by the chemical depends on its properties, particularly toxicity.

The ill health effect caused ranges from irritation, allergy, poisoning or even death. Chemicals are at their most dangerous when in concentrated form. Those who are at risk are those who use the chemicals and those who may be exposed to the chemicals while they are on the farm.

Where cleaning is a big part of the production process (as in poultry farming), there are always risks to those working on the farm.


Where electrical equipment is not to the correct standard or is not well maintained, there is a risk of electrocution. Most poultry units are high consumers of electiricity. Those at risk include the farmer and anyone entering the farm who may come in contact with faulty electrical equipment or overhead cables.

Farmyard and buildings

As poultry farming is generally centred around a poultry unit/farm falls from height or collapse of farm buildings must be a concern. Of particular concern is falling through fragile roofs or from ladders. Collapsing walls or earthen drains also cause many deaths.


Machinery is a significant source of fatalities and serious injuries in agriculture, and poultry farmers are also big machinery users. The primary causes of accidents involving machinery are crushing, being struck and entanglement. Those at risk of injury are persons operating the machinery and those in the vicinity when machinery is being operated.

Tractors, farm vehicles and ATVs

Tractor and vehicle use is potentially lethal. Tractors account for the highest proportion of fatalities and accidents each year.

Vehicle operation accounts for 56% of all deaths with vehicles and machinery.

Being crushed (49%), struck (20%), pinned under (20%) or falling from the vehicle are the causes of vehicle accidents. Those at risk include persons using the tractor and those who may be in the area where the tractor is operating. Poor operation of vehicles particularly when reversing is another main cause of fatalities.

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