Revised July 2007

Marjorie R. Margentino, Former Program Associate in Animal Science; Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D., Director of the Equine Science Center; Sara R. Malone, Department of Animal Sciences

Every year there are an alarming number of farm-related injuries nationwide. In 2001 alone, there were an estimated 75,000 work-related agricultural injuries involving adults working on farms and over 22,000 involving children. Farm owners and managers must make a concerted effort to ensure safety around the farm and reduce farm-related accidents. Buildings are the site for almost 30% of all farm-related injuries. To help reduce the number of accidents and injuries to employees, visitors and stock, care needs to be taken to ensure that buildings and the surrounding areas meet common safety standards. This fact sheet will help owners and managers to identify areas of concern and how to correct any possible problems.

Horse/Livestock Barns

  • There should be no unnecessary trash or debris lying around inside or outside of buildings. In addition to being unsightly, it can attract rodents, start or spread a fire, and could cause an injury or fall to a person or animal.
  • Any ornamental shrubbery around the exterior of the barn should not be poisonous to livestock. Several resources are available online and in print to help you identify potentially harmful plant species, these include and
  • “No Smoking” signs should be posted at all exterior doorways. Have sand buckets for cigarette butts available at the doors. “No Smoking” signs should also be posted in lounges, bathrooms and in several other conspicuous places around the barn.
  • The correct size and type of fire extinguisher should be located at every exterior door, in the middle of long aisles and next to the main electrical panel box. Fire exits should be clearly marked.
  • Every farm/stable should have an emergency first aid kit for both humans and horses/livestock. A phone with posted emergency numbers should be easily accessible.
  • Ample Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved lighting should be available for maximum visibility around the exterior of the building and throughout the interior. Wiring and switches should be encased in metal, weather-proof boxes, and out of reach of stock.
  • The building should have lightning rods and be properly grounded.
  • Doorways and aisles should be free of obstructions and sharp projections, e.g. hardware, and be 8 feet wide in horse barns.
  • Ceilings need to have a height of 8-12 feet. Door frames should be a minimum of 8 feet high with a minimum width of 4 feet and aisles should be at least 8 feet wide.
  • Windows need to be inaccessible to horses and livestock, covered with bars or screening and made of safety glass.
  • Stall and pen walls should be smooth, free of all projections, and of adequate size for the number of animals to be housed and to prevent casting. Stall doors should have secure latches and either slide or swing outward.
  • Water sources should be grounded to prevent accidental electrical shock.
  • Feed tubs and water buckets should be smooth, clean and placed securely at the proper height so that the animals cannot become entangled.
  • Flooring should be easy to keep clean and provide traction for animals, especially those with shoes. Excessively rough flooring can cause abnormal wear, soreness and bruised feet especially in cattle and swine. Any rotten floor boards should be replaced immediately.
  • Safe and appropriate areas should be maintained to secure horses. All cross-ties and other ties should have safety release snaps.
  • Grooming and wash stalls should be in open areas and be clean and well-drained to prevent wet and/or icy barn floors.
  • Hay storage needs to be away from heat and electrical sources, and if at all possible kept in a separate building from where livestock and horses are housed.
  • Stairs to haylofts should have hand rails and be kept free of slippery substances and clutter. Railings should be installed around loft and ladder openings, and ladders should be firmly attached to the wall.
  • Hay and bedding should be stacked so as not to topple readily.
  • Low beams and pipes (under 7 ft. clearance), steps or uneven floors should be mark
  • Tack rooms need adequate racks and storage areas to keep equipment off the floor and out of the path of traffic.
  • Storage areas should be large enough to keep shovels, pitchforks, wheel barrows, etc. safely away from animals. Items should be hung so that people cannot strike their heads on them.
  • Hoses should be neatly hung in wash rack areas so that people and animals cannot become entangled in them.
  • Grain storage systems should be rat-proof, weather-proof and not accessible to horses and livestock.
  • Areas around vents and fans should be kept clear. Fans should be properly maintained and cleaned frequently.Garbage receptacles should be available for the deposit of refuse, baling twine and wire.

Turnouts and Pastures

  • Turnout paddocks and pasture fencing should be sturdy, 4 to 6 feet in height, and able to keep livestock in and unwanted “visitors” out. Any protrusion on which stock may become caught should be removed. Fencing material should be suitable for the type of livestock being housed. Loose wires and broken boards or rails should be attended to immediately.
  • Gates should be a minimum of 4 feet wide, swing freely and have no sharp edges or corners.
  • Footing should be well-drained and free of ruts and stones.
  • Pastures/turnouts should be free of debris, foreign objects and toxic plants. Check with the Equine Science Center,, for toxic plants common in horse pastures.
  • Machinery and equipment should not be left in pastures and turnouts.
  • Ponds, irrigation and open drainage ditches should be fenced.
  • Fallen branches and tree stumps should be removed.
  • Washouts should be fixed promptly.
  • Any bridges should be strong enough to support horses and machinery.
  • Periodic pasture checks should be made to ascertain that no poisonous plants are growing in or around the pasture area.


  • Roads and driveways should be wide, free of deep ruts and bumps.
  • Low-hanging tree branches and shrubs should be trimmed back.
  • Gates should be wide enough for machinery and trucks, and set far enough back so that vehicles are off the main road when stopping to open or close the gate.
  • Overhead wires should be high enough for trucks, trailers, tractors, and other
    equipment to pass under.
  • There should be 10-foot wide fire/emergency lanes around all buildings and structures.
  • Vehicles should only park in designated areas to keep roadways open for emergency vehicles.
  • Vehicle and trailer parking should not be permitted next to barn/stable.
  • Vehicular traffic should proceed slowly and with caution.
  • Speed limit signs of 15 mph or lower should be posted and enforced. “Caution: Horse Crossing” signs are available through many retailers.

Arenas and Jump Courses

  • Arenas and courses should have ample, suitable footing free from ruts, holes and unevenness.
  • Riding ring fencing should be a minimum of 4 feet high and of adequate strength.
  • All overhead and protruding branches should be cut back so as not to be a hazard.
  • All accessory equipment (e.g., jumps, trail obstacles, barrels, poles) should be in good condition. Any broken or unstable items should be fixed or replaced immediately. It is important that all equipment be built and maintained according to good safety practices and that items such as jump cups easily break away if a horse or rider falls on them.
  • Rings and jump courses should not attract attention from “outside” such as skateboarders, dirt bikers or all-terrain vehicle riders.
  • Gates should be secured so as to deny entry to unauthorized users.

Surrounding Acreage

  • Areas around the barns, rings and pastures should be free from debris.
  • Ponds, large water storage tanks and waterways should be fenced and posted with “no swimming” and “no fishing” signs to deter trespassers.
  • Hazardous passageways, hay drops, manure pits, etc. should be properly fenced and maintained.


  1. Colorado State University. Guide to Poisonous Plants. A. Knight. May 2006.
  2. Cornell University. Poisonous Plants Informational Database. 2005.
  3. National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS). 2004. 2001 Adult and Childhood Agriculture-Related Injuries.
  4. National Safety Council/Farm Family Insurance Company. 1990. “Your Farm Safety Is No Accident!”
  5. National Safety Council. 1975. “Hazard Checklist For Agriculture.”
  6. Reinsurance Association of Minnesota. 1983. Fire Safety In Agricultural Buildings.
  7. Roberts, William J., Buildings For Pleasure Horses. 1979. Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Other Related Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets

Margentino, M. and Malinowski, 1991. “Accident-Proofing Farms and Stables.” FS605

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Program on Agricultural Health Promotion Systems for New Jersey.

© 2007 by Rutgers Cooperative Extension, NJAES, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.