The focus on animal welfare is a hot topic in the livestock business, but what about the welfare of workers who are handling farm animals? The Pork Checkoff has worked to create a new Safe Pig Handling education series that was released at the World Pork Expo. And during Pork Academy at the big Des Moines event, Bill Winkelman, National Pork Board, walked through the features of this new multimedia training tool.

"Two years ago we sat down with producers at the employee safety summit," Winkelman recalls. "We determined what we needed most was training to help ensure employee safety." The result is the new multimedia Safe Pig Handling course.

The industry has developed a safety benchmarking resource that producers can use to gauge their progress on providing a safe working environment on the farm. Winkelman says the changing nature of the labor pool comes into play as well.

"With so many new employees having no background, we needed a resource for onboarding employees and ways to employ safety programs," He notes.

The new tool is interactive, and Winkelman stressed that interactivity of the new training tool was critical.

The Safe Pig Handling tool provides a full-fledged training program designed to be used by swine operations to engage employees and help improve their safety around animals. The developers at AgCreate who worked with the Pork Checkoff, have created a tool that can be used with our without Internet access to facilitate training.

"With this program a manager can play it for a group of employees and when needed stop the presentation to provide the farm's own standard operating procedures," Winkelman says. In addition, the program doesn't need a web hookup to work. He explains the varied access to the Web around the country makes true interactivity difficult.

The program provides materials and information in both English and Spanish, which Winkelman says was essential, but this first project brought its own learning curve. "We learned a lot on this process, if you  made a change in one version you would have to make the translation change," he notes. "It was complicated getting this first project done."

The Safe Pig Handling series also incorporates key practices from the Transport Quality Assurance program and the Pork Quality Assurance programs which provide a cohesive message to workers too.

The first six chapters for this first training program include:

* Pig Behavior and You
* Training and Handling Boars
* Moving Pregnant Sows and Gilts to Farrowing
* Weaning Sows
* Weaning Pigs
*Loading Market Hogs

The program will expand from this first series, but Winkelman says they wanted to get this one complete fist. 

"We want feedback on this first program to help improve the rest," says Winkleman. "And we're only distributing it on a thumb drive that producers will have to order online. The program is free, but the requirement to order will allow the Pork Board to track downloads so they can learn where the system is going." It's important for the organization to understand how training tools may be incorporated into different operations. The Safe Pig Handling program is just the start of what could be a range of training tools for the future.

You can learn more by visiting National Pork Board where you can find a past release of the story at www.Pork.org.