Archive for the ‘handler responsibility’ Category

Safe Pig Handling by Don Lidster

Sunday, February 10th, 2013






Nancy is out on a series of meetings in Alberta so I have offered to put my two bits worth in again.

There was not enough business in producing Training Videos for the pig industry so I have gone to a full time management job with a multinational agriculture company.


The company I work for is highly mechanized. They have equipment that performs most of the processes. For the most part the “operators” are sitting in a control room, watching monitors and flipping switches. They are operating remotely. Yes, there is the hands-on work that the mechanics perform, the loading of products which puts operators onto the tops of rail cars but overall, in this industry the people have limited physical contact with “their work” relative to the pig industry.


Given my 20+ plus years of hands on work in the pig production, I have been shocked in the last two years with the emphasis on safety in the company I work for. In my head these people were not in peril of injury relative to the industry I had come from. Yet every staff meeting opens with a “safety tip” of the day. The company reports and documents, in detail, any “near misses” in an effort to head off any accidents. The slogan is: nothing has to be done so urgently that it cannot be done safely. I knew they meant business when I heard the Plant Manager instructing a supervisor to shut down the Plant if we didn’t have people available to fix a particular safety issue.


Why are they doing this? It is good for business. Lost time accidents, insurance claims, legal liability can cost any company a lot of money. You can bet that any activity that affects the profitability for the shareholders is a top priority with company management.


So what has all this to do with a Low Stress Pig Handling blog? Low Stress Pig Handling training brings more safety to pig handling. It reduces the risk of accidental injuries. We were given a testimony by the Manager of a large production system to the effect that, once they had over 50% of the people trained in any one barn, their injury rate went down. Trained people can be proactive rather than reactive to pig’s actions. They understand probable outcomes in many pig handling situations and have been given the tools to be “safer” handlers. That is good business.


By being proactive, knowledgeable handlers can “head off” situations which can escalate into actions in which people and pigs get hurt. Low Stress Pig Handlers can move into the category of the “operators” in my workplace. Low Stress Pig Handlers may not be sitting in the control room but they are flipping the pig’s switches and have the opportunity to work relatively “remotely”. Relative to the handler who, through lack of training (or their own desire) put themselves in situations where they are physically pushing the pig, carrying the weaner pig, “fighting” the market pig, the trained handler can use the pig’s instinct to “control” the outcome desired by the handler. I always hearken back to the late Bud William’s saying “Let them have YOUR way”.


The “operators” in my workplace are trained to not only observe what is happening to various pieces of equipment through watching the monitor but they are trained to identify patterns and situations developing, which left unchecked can mean “undesirable” outcomes for the Plant operation. Trained Handlers also can recognize what is happening to various pieces of equipment (pigs) and recognize patterns and situations developing in the pig movement.


The company I work for does not look at safety training as an “optional cost” on the books. Safety is part of operations as much as electricity or nature gas is a necessary cost of operation.


Just a brief comment on the fallout from “the hidden camera” activity in our pig industry. Most of the incidents where handlers are involved in animal abuse could have been “headed off” by handlers who were trained in Low Stress Pig Handling. Generally speaking, people want to do what is right IF they know how. If people are not given the tools to “put them in the control room”, flipping the switches, they do whatever they can to deal with the situation. In incidents like these, safety goes right out the window. Over heated emotions put the “operators” on a crash course with disaster. The results have been evident.


Nancy will be back to the Blog soon.


Be safe and go home in the same health as you came to work.


Don Lidster