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Yards, ramps and gates - Livestock transport


The safe design, installation and maintenance of livestock yards, ramps and gates at farms, stockyards and abattoirs are important in preventing workplace injuries. Safe work practices provide employers, stockyard owners/operators and livestock transporters the opportunity to implement effective injury prevention.

Work health and safety responsibilities

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU’s) are responsible for ensuring that the health and safety of workers along with clients and customers are not put at risk. Those responsible for implementing safety solutions may include:

  • stockyard owners/operators
  • abattoir operators
  • farmers/primary producers
  • feedlot operators
  • stock selling and buying agents
  • livestock transporters
  • drivers, including owner/drivers
  • employers
  • providers of truck wash-down stations
  • designers, manufacturers and suppliers of yards, ramps and gates (including people who repair or modify equipment).

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

Stockyard owners/operators

Stockyard owners and operators (including primary producers and abattoir operators) are responsible for the work health and safety of their own workers, as well as everyone else in the yard. They must ensure that:

  • a safe system of work is in place, including safe animal handling procedures (developed and adopted in consultation with workers and contractors)
  • all plant and equipment is maintained and in a safe working condition
  • a safe working environment is provided, particularly the physical separation of people and livestock
  • information, instruction and training are provided.

To ensure trouble-free loading and unloading of livestock, stockyard owners and operators should ideally provide:

  • ramps designed and built to suit:
  • the type of livestock being handled
  • the type of vehicle being used
  • the fall protection methods used by drivers
  • stairs and walkways with handrails, including along loading races, loading docks and platforms
  • self-latching/slam-shut gates for easy access and escape, and isolation from animal hazards
  • gates that swing freely with the top gudgeon reversed to prevent gates being lifted off
  • lighting positioned to ensure clear vision inside all crates and surrounds
  • tiered gantries with safe access and outlet
  • stockyards designed with good drainage and firm footing to reduce the risk of trips and falls.

Selling and buying agents

Agents are responsible for ensuring all workers, including their contractors, have undertaken an induction into the stockyard’s safe working procedures.

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers of yards and loading ramps are responsible for designing safe plant and equipment, which includes purpose-built platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders.

Anyone carrying out modifications and retrofitting is also responsible for ensuring the safety of this equipment, and PCBUs must inform, instruct and train workers regarding any changes.

Reducing the risk

Loading and unloading

Before loading, drivers should undertake a visual check to ensure all ramps and equipment are safe to use. Incidents during unloading can arise from a number of sources such as aggressive bulls and unsuitable ramp design.

Ideally, a physical separation should be maintained between the person(s) loading/unloading and the livestock. However, if this isn’t possible, an accessible escape route should be provided and identified before moving near the animals.

After unloading is completed, make sure all gates have been secured.

Fences, gates, raised walkways and ramps

Everyone working at the site needs to know and follow the procedures for using, accessing and securing fences, gates, raised walkways and ramps.

Use of plant and machinery

When anyone is operating plant within a stockyard, it is crucial that all safe working methods are followed. The operator needs to be trained in how to use the item safely, with safety checks and maintenance regularly undertaken. If the plant is unsafe, it must not be operated, and the fault reported.

Lighting

Stockyard areas should be equipped with adequate lighting. Reporting any defects or required repairs is critical as it reduces hazards, especially when working at night or early morning.

Outside distractions

Distracting and inattentive behaviours while working in close proximity to livestock, including chatting, smoking and using mobile phones, may lead to reduced awareness and a potential increase in the risk of injury

Safe working methods

Safe working methods enable employers, stockyard owners/operators and drivers the opportunity to implement effective preventative measures.

Working at heights

Everyone, including contractors, working at heights must:

  • follow agreed procedures as per their training
  • check the condition of any fall prevention equipment before starting work
  • assess the weather conditions before starting work.

Working alone

Everyone must be aware of the potential hazards of working alone and follow documented procedures and emergency arrangements. They must test their communication equipment before starting work (which may be a condition of after-hours access to a stockyard).

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 – Crates and trailors
  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