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The curious case of the bull and farm safety
Posted by David Cant on August 15, 2016

The curious case of the bull and farm safety

Bull in a fieldThe summer holidays presents all manner of challenges for site managers who need to keep bored school kids away from danger – a topic we’ve covered before. And it seems that farm manager Mark Saunders has found a novel way to deter unwanted visitors.

Trespassing and fires

According to Saunders, his farm near Middlesbrough has been plagued by children breaking into one of the fields. He claims that these trespassers have been entering the field and climbing on stacks of hay bales on an almost nightly basis. On some occasions the bales have even been set alight, and the combined effect of climbing and fire has destabilised many of the piles.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph Saunders said, “The bales are really loose now, I’m more concerned for their safety than anything, they wouldn’t stand a chance if a bale fell on them.”

Having received little assistance from police or local parents in the three weeks since the summer holidays, he has been forced to try another deterrent.

Animal power

Deciding that there is no way cost-effective way of improving fencing Saunders has instead decided to move one of the farm’s bulls into the field. He has also approached Cleveland police, asking them to make the public aware that the field (and hay bales) are protected by a bull.

But as effective as the bull may be, there are questions about whether Saunder’s actions are legal.

A potential legal problem

Keeping bulls in the UK is (obviously) perfectly legal – but there are a number of HSE guidelines that farmers must adhere to. Saunders needs to ensure that his bull is not overly aggressive near the public.

Perhaps more pressingly, he is also expected to provide adequate fencing to prevent children gaining access to the field, and ensuring that paths are clearly marked so that members of the public do not stray unknowingly. This means that if a child climbs through fencing and is injured by his bull, Saunders may face prosecution by the HSE.

The Newham Grange Leisure Farm claims that all necessary provisions have been made, but the fact remains that bulls present a significant risk to members of the public. It could be that Saunders’ bull causes more problems than it solves.

Fences are still the safest choice

Whether on a farm or a building site, managers must do all they can to keep children out for their own safety. And the use of animals – more commonly guard dogs – offers a powerful deterrent.

But by introducing creatures capable of causing injury, site managers could actually be making the workplace more dangerous. Which is obviously a breach of the Health and Safety At Work act.

Far less dangerous (and contentious), the use of fencing is a far safer choice for virtually every setting – including Mr Saunders’ farm. Ultimately the cost of installing secure fencing will almost certainly cost less than a legal defence should a member of the public be injured by an animal on site.

For more help and advice about applying health and safety provisions effectively on your site (without the use of animals), please get in touch.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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  1. August 15, 2016 at 10:58 am

    An interesting article and one in which I have a personal interest, since I often walk country footpaths.
    You state a requirement to ‘provide adequate fencing to prevent children gaining access to the field,’, which is not strictly the case.
    The HSE guidance (for fields which are not crossed by a Public Footpath) is to “make sure that groups of animals older than 10 months are securely enclosed by stock-proof hedging or fencing at least 1.3 m high, strong enough to retain the animals and capable of restricting access of children.”
    Restricting access is a whole different scenario to ‘preventing’.
    Some stock fence with a single barbed wire strand along the top will be restricting, but not preventing.
    To prevent access might imply fencing of 2 mtrs or more, but clearly the HSE feel that 1.3 mtrs is enough to restrict access.

    • August 17, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Hi Bernard. All points very valid. Good idea about the Bull? more of a deterrent don’t you think.

      Thanks for dropping by with your comments.

      • August 17, 2016 at 3:35 pm

        I’ve seen plenty of Bulls in fields that are crossed by footpaths, sometimes with home made signs that usually consist of a plastic lid from a large Tub with permanent marker words like ‘Warning – Bull in Field’. Which aside from being gash, are contrary to the HSE guidance on wording.
        Always a bit unnerving when out hiking a trail in the middle of nowhere! You never know how aggressive the farmer is, let alone their animals!
        I think with this case the deterrent factor of the animal could stop the kids from trespassing unless they are ‘animal wise’ country kids, which is unlikely
        As you rightly said, the farmer is perfectly within his rights to move stock around his farm, observing normal safety precautions.

  2. October 19, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, thankyou. Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. by Euripides. decbcfaaggaeackg

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