A Culture of Safety: Why It’s Important In Your Barn

By Amy Clever of Safety Check, Inc.

Damages caused by injury to both horses and barn staff contribute to many unforeseen costs in the equine industry every year. Undeniably, safety is a factor that is at the heart of this issue. Research shows that increasing the culture of safety in your barn can decrease the costs associated with insurance and healthcare for both barn staff and horses. One of the easiest ways to develop a strong safety culture in your facility is to implement an equine safety program.

An equine safety program is designed to help equestrian facility owners determine risks and prevent accidents involving staff, clients, visitors, and horses. A well-written and implemented health and safety manual is imperative in enabling equestrian facilities to improve the safety of their facility. Below are a few key elements that an equine safety program should include:

  • Assessment of Hazards
  • Health and Safety Manual
  • Routine Safety Inspections
  • Regular Safety Training
  • Assign a Program Coordinator

In reality, dangers do exist in the equestrian facilities of even the most competent professionals. The first step in developing a strong culture of safety in your facility is evaluating the risks at hand, and taking steps to reduce those risks. The development of a health and safety manual goes hand in hand with determining the risks in your facility and working to eliminate them. A health and safety manual will outline the protocol for employees to follow with regard to guidelines and rules for many of the day-to-day activities in the barn, as well as sections providing guidance on specific tasks. A strong safety program will put an end to complacency, and should motivate you and your staff to take a close look at your everyday activities in order to keep your thoughts and actions fresh.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Your health and safety program provides a multitude of tools to help you get the job done. As part of the program, safety inspections should be completed on a regular basis. Safety inspections will help to identify high-risk areas and potential liability, allowing you to correct issues before problems arise. When your facility is inspected on a consistent basis, it brings safety and accountability to the forefront of everyone’s actions, which will decrease the possibility of accidents or injury involving both staff and horses.

Of course, no facility is free from the need to learn about how to improve their safety practices. After all, aren’t we always striving to do better? A training schedule should be planned out for the year, with specific topics outlined to be covered at regular times. However, from your inspections will also come the opportunity to provide training in different areas as concern arises. For example, during your inspection you might see a member of your staff struggling to handle a particularly unruly horse. That would lead to the opportunity to teach safe handling practices. When utilized properly, your safety program becomes a tool through which you can take advantage of teachable moments within your operation, as well as to coordinate regularly scheduled trainings on specific, pre-planned topics.

Keep in mind that while your program is a tool for achieving better safety in your facility, you must use your tools to get the job done. In order to implement the health and safety program, it is important to assign a program manager from within your staff, or to hire a third party consulting company. This person will complete all of the record keeping, complete regularly scheduled inspections and implement consistent training. Your safety program manager/consultant is the main person who cultivates the safety climate within your equestrian facility, so choose wisely.

As you can see, the implementation of a health and safety program in your equestrian facility can lead to many positive changes in your operation. From a strong culture of safety when handling your horses and working in your facility, to decreased costs in insurance and health care, a well-maintained health safety program can make a world of difference in your business. If you have the desire to further develop a culture of health and safety in your equestrian facility, there are a number of third party safety consultants available, including Safety Check, Inc.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 print edition of The Plaid Horse.