Safety advice for pig farm workers

Pig farmers are being encouraged to provide workers with ear protectors when feeding pigs, due to the high levels of squealing, in a new leaflet from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The publication, entitled ‘Farmwise - Your Essential Guide to Health and Safety in Agriculture’, advises farmers to offer the option of hearing protection to workers, as intensively housed animals such as pigs at feeding time can create levels of 100 decibels (dB) or more.

The publication states: “Where exposures reach 85dB or higher, mark these areas as ‘hearing protection zones’, with signs to indicate that hearing protection must be worn and make sure everyone entering these zones wears hearing protection And get operators in noisy areas to wear hearing protection, and tell them about the risks to their hearing. If any of your workers think their hearing is being affected, suggest they take medical advice and consider the need for regular hearing checks as part of health surveillance.”

According to the HSE, more than one in five farm workers are being exposed to deafening levels, as the noise becomes a problem when hundreds of pigs are kept intensively in close confinement in sheds.

HSE inspector Tony Mitchell said: “If you can imagine a shed with 300-400 hungry sows waiting for you to come and feed them and they are all squealing at the same time, the noise they make can be quite dramatic.”

A BPEX spokesperson however added that altough the same advice has been about for decades, nowadays the majority of weaners and finishers are fed ad lib. which means the pig have feed in front of them so it is not so much an issue.