Shearing is a high-risk job involving the entire adult flock for a short time and requiring substantial manual effort. While contractors shearing many thousands of sheep may be considered at higher risk, often a farmer who is less practised at the job will have a poorer technique and work in less suitable surroundings.
Figure 6: Sheep shearer using back-aid
Traditionally, the physical options for reducing the risks during shearing have been limited to the workstation layout. The best practice of presenting sheep to the shearer in a close, small pen and allowing rapid exit of the shorn animal, away from the wrapping point has been achieved in purpose-designed shearing sheds or mobile shearing trailers. However, these features can be employed at any shearing site.
Manual effort can be further reduced by a shearing back-aid (see Figure 6). Back-aids are widely used in Australia and in other sheep-rearing countries and are available in the UK. The 'Warrie back-aid'® helps by carrying some of the shearer's upper body weight while they are bent over the sheep. The device uses sound ergonomic principles and in a well-designed workplace can make the difference between lifelong back problems and years of skilled shearing.