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Crates & trailers - Livestock transport


There are several risks associated with the management of livestock that workers often encounter. Such risks occur when:

  • checking the welfare of stock
  • checking stock crates
  • loading and unloading stock
  • accessing truck cabins
  • carrying out maintenance.

These situations may arise on both farms and roadsides, or at saleyards, feedlots, spelling yards, abattoirs, truck wash-down stations and depots.

Work health and safety responsibilities

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) are responsible for ensuring that the health and safety of workers (and others like clients and customers) is not put at risk. In the livestock transport industry, those responsible for implementing safety solutions for the loading, checking and unloading of livestock may include:

  • farmers/primary producers
  • feedlot operators
  • employers and agents
  • transport operators and consigners
  • drivers, including owner/drivers
  • saleyard and abattoir operators
  • providers of truck wash-down stations
  • designers, manufacturers and suppliers of crates, trailers and fall prevention safety equipment (including people who repair or modify equipment).

PCBU’s must consult and involve workers when identifying and resolving safety issues, as decisions will have safety consequences for them. PCBU’s must also possess an incident/injury reporting process enabling workers to report any safety issues, hazards and incidents that occur.

Reducing the risk

There are ways to reduce the risk from falling from heights through a combination of solutions such as:

  • using crates which are designed, manufactured and sold with worker fall prevention features integrated and installed
  • ensuring any contract requires the transport operator to use fall prevention equipment during the consignment period
  • engaging transport operators who have eliminated the need to work at heights, such as drivers who work from the ground or a solid construction.

Ideally, a physical separation should be maintained between livestock and drivers.

People should not walk on top of livestock crates unless there is a fall prevention system in place, such as a walkway with pop-up guardrails.

Existing vehicles can be retrofitted by using the following options (in descending order of preference):

  • install engineered improvements so that work can be done from ground level such as remote control cattle crates
  • install platforms or walkways with protective handrails or side-rails
  • install an inertia reel system (a fall restraint system)
  • install fall arrest equipment with associated safe work and rescue procedures
  • install fixed ladders
  • use portable ladders as required.

Loading, checking and unloading livestock

Roadside livestock inspection

Plan transport routes so that the best roadside sites to conduct stock welfare checks can be used. It’s important to ensure that drivers have a good understanding of how to work safely at roadsides.

When performing roadside inspections, drivers should:

  • ensure that the area is well lit
  • park on level surfaces
  • use traffic control devices
  • be aware of other traffic.

Loading or unloading

When loading or unloading livestock workers should:

  • check that the reversing alarm is fitted and working
  • check that mirrors/visual aids are positioned correctly
  • use handrails or hand holds for climbing on and off the truck – it’s important to maintain three points of contact at all times, especially if the ground is wet, rough, sloping or uneven
  • use the fall prevention system to prevent people falling off the top of the truck
  • ensure that sliding gates in crate compartments are easy to use and able to be secured so that they will not open if kicked or struck by livestock
  • maintain three points of contact at all times when climbing up the pens or ramps to get to the back of the truck
  • check there are no gaps between the ramp and truck that workers can fall or escape through.

Loading dock

At the loading dock workers should:

  • check the design and condition of the dock before use
  • inspect the ground surface for hazards
  • check there are no overhead powerlines in the vicinity
  • make sure the area is well lit (if loading or unloading stock at night or early morning)
  • ensure the area is clear of people, mobile plant and equipment.

Loading ramp and race

Loading ramp and race areas should ideally be designed and constructed with:

  • raised catwalks enabling work to be done from outside the race
  • non-slip catwalk surfaces wide enough to walk along freely and safely
  • catwalk handrails of sufficient height and in good condition
  • race and ramp height/width and rail spacings appropriate for the livestock being handled
  • ramps with safe access to prevent falls when opening or closing truck gates.

Receiving yards

At receiving yards check that:

  • the yard location enables safe access (in all weather conditions)
  • the yard design enables a good flow of livestock to/from the truck
  • gates are sound, swing or slide easily, and are capable of being secured in both the open and closed positions.

Wash-down facilities

Truck wash-down facilities should be operated from either:

  • ground level such as mounting hose jets at a height enabling ground-based operation, or
  • a gantry/walkway with handrails.

Additional information

The below resources provide further information surrounding work health and safety in the livestock transport.

  1. Guide for the safe design of livestock loading ramps and forcing yards
  2. Livestock transport
  3. Livestock transport – Yards, ramps and gates
  4. Code of Practice – Managing the risk of falls at workplaces
  5. Code of Practice – Managing the risk of plant in the workplace
  6. Code of Practice – How to manage work health and safety risks
  7. Code of Practice – Work health and safety consultation, co-operation and co-ordination