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Pig handling

Pigs can cause serious injury if not handled properly. Learn about the risks involved in pig handling and how to keep yourself and others safe.

What does ‘pig handling’ mean?

‘Pig handling’ means the activities involved in raising and processing pigs. These can include moving them to different pens, pregnancy testing, medicating and weighing.

What are the risks of handling pigs?

Physical injury

Pigs are intelligent and curious, but they can find new experiences frightening. They are easily stressed and can be unpredictable. Handlers can be knocked over, bitten, charged, tusked or pinned to equipment. Piglets can be a tripping hazard.

Other risks

Many of the risks involved in handling pigs are common to all animal handling. These include hazardous manual tasks, hazardous chemicals and medicines, and diseases from animals.

How do I manage the risks?

Workers and management can work together to reduce the risks from hazards at work. A safe place of work benefits everyone. Read more about how you can create safe work.

For workers

As a worker, you have a responsibility under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to take reasonable care for your own health and safety and for others who may be affected by what you do or don’t do. You must follow any reasonable health and safety instructions from your employer. You should use equipment properly, follow safe work policies and procedures, and attend training.

For businesses

For employers or persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), it’s your duty to manage animal handling risks, as outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Following the four-step risk management process below will help your business meet its responsibilities under work health and safety (WHS) laws. You can also use the practical advice in the How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB).

Four steps to manage risk

The first step in the risk management process is to identify the hazards. This means finding all the relevant things and situations that may contribute to an incident. Think about what could go wrong and consider the consequences.

Inspect the workplace

Look at:

  • how tasks are done
  • how work is designed and managed
  • the tools, equipment and objects being used
  • the physical work environment.

Talk to workers

Talk to your workers about the possible hazards. You might do this individually, in a meeting or with a survey.

Review information already available

You can read the acts and regulations, codes of practice, and standards relating to animal handling and pig handling. The pig welfare code promotes animal welfare outcomes for pigs by defining acceptable pig management practices and encouraging considerate and efficient treatment and handling of pigs in all types of production systems.

Look for trends in information already available, such as workplace records, inspection reports, sick leave, worker complaints and injury compensation claims.

Read information about possible risks from regulators, industry associations, unions and safety consultants, or designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers.

Find more information on how to identify risks in How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) .

Once you identify possible risks, make a risk assessment and decide:

  • if there is a risk to you or others
  • whether any effective control measures are already in place
  • what actions you could take to control the risk
  • how urgently you should act.

You can use this risk assessment template (DOCX, 0.02 MB) to guide you and record your assessments.

Once you’ve identified possible risks, put control measures in place. The best way to control risk is to remove the hazard completely. If that’s not possible, you must reduce the risk as much as possible.

You can do this by:

  • substituting the hazard with something safer
  • physically separating people from the hazard (such as with fences or barriers)
  • using engineering controls or equipment (such as lifting devices).

Control measures

Along with the control measures common to all animal handling, these are some key control measures when handling pigs:

  • Be patient and gentle. Don’t yell or be aggressive. Keep them calm and avoid them getting stressed. Calm pigs are more easily moved. Move quietly, slowing and deliberately.
  • Move pigs in small groups. Pigs don’t like to be isolated, and it can be very stressful. They like to be in small groups. Large groups are more difficult to move.
  • Allow pigs to explore their environment as they move forward. Minimise visual distractions such as changes in colour, gaps, shadows, open walls. Use solid panels in lanes and rams to block their sight and sounds.
  • Become familiar to the pigs. Handle them daily to get them used to it. Know when pigs are stressed. Signs include panting, squealing, barking, blotchy skin, stiffness, shaking, increased heart rate and increased body temperature.
  • Always keep boars away from each other. Boars are more aggressive during the mating season and extremely dangerous when fighting. De-tusk boars if their tusks get too big.
  • Take care when lifting pigs. To lift a boar, use a lifting board. Use appropriate restraints and aids such as crushes, nose ropes and drafting boards.
  • Sterilise needles, teeth cutters and ear pliers, and make sure operators follow strict hygiene practices.
  • Use raceways that encourage the pigs to move freely and make sure they’re not slippery.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing and maintain good personal hygiene. Wear hearing protection when feeding pigs.

Risk management is an ongoing process. You should check regularly to make sure the control measures are working. If you find problems, go through the steps again, review the information and decide whether you need new controls.

Under the work health and safety laws you must review controls:

  • when you become aware that a control measure is not working effectively
  • before a change that might create a new risk
  • when you find a new hazard or risk
  • when your workers tell you that a review is needed
  • after a health and safety representative requests a review.

You can find a list to help you identify any issues in the How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) .