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A new course to raise health and safety awareness on livery yards has been piloted by a Hertfordshire council before the laws governing it are tightened up.

St Albans City and District Council, in conjunction with work-based training provider KEITS, recently ran a one-day pilot course providing free information and guidance to around 15 local livery yards.

KEITS’s Anna Sherriff said: “We wanted to help employers before inspections become mandatory. We had a classroom session and a yard practical on the yard — it was an eye-opener for some newer businesses.”

Though the equestrian industry has lobbied for the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to include compulsory licensing of livery yards, the government has said licensing will not be considered until 2009 at the earliest (news, 21 June).

“At the moment, yards can be checked by councils under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974,” said Christine Doran of the British Horse Society (BHS), which runs a voluntary livery yard approval scheme.

“But, in reality, this only happens if the local authority knows about them and often they check the bigger businesses.”

The BHS’s scheme currently has around 300 members, but Defra estimates there could be as many as 10,000 livery yards — all of which would have to pass health and safety inspections to secure an operating licence if licensing comes in.

Course attendee Emily McClelland, who runs a 31-box livery yard in Hertfordshire, said: “It was useful to hear what we were doing right, and what extra things we needed to put in place. So many accidents never get reported.”

St Albans environmental health officer Carrie Noble said: “Our seminar was a way of offering informal advice to small businesses that cannot afford to pay for external health and safety advisers.”

Christine Doran said: “It’s brilliant that a council is raising awareness of what is relevant to proprietors.”

More health and safety courses for livery yards are planned in 2008 but details have yet to be finalised.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (20 December, ’07)