The task of dragging sheep into position for shearing has been reported by shearers as the most physically demanding and one of the highest injury risk aspects of shearing, particularly with regard to back injury. This study aimed to identify which of the currently used drag paths induced the lowest energy consumption and risk of injury. The drag path with the lowest work economy (oxygen cost per sheep dragged per minute) and highest injury risk is used by left-handed shearers who are shearing from a workstation which is designed for right-handed shearers. Importantly, there were no significant differences in the work economy of the two drag paths which were used most frequently and which involved the lowest injury risk. These data have been used in advocating the adoption of simple shearing shed design solutions to assist in the control of injury risk and energy expenditure in the wool industry.
Some occupational health and safety hazards associated with sheep shearing are related to shearing shed design. One aspect is the floor of the catching pen, from which sheep are caught and dragged to the shearing workstation. Floors can be constructed from various materials, and may be level or gently sloping. An experiment was conducted using eight experienced shearers as participants to measure the force exerted by a shearer when dragging a sheep. Results showed that significant changes in mean dragging force occurred with changes in both surface texture and slope. The mean dragging forces for different floor textures and slopes ranged from 359 N (36.6 kg) to 423N (43.2 kg), and were close to the maximum acceptable limits for pulling forces for the most capable of males. The best floor tested was a floor sloped at 1:10 constructed of timber battens oriented parallel to the path of the drag, which resulted in a mean dragging force 63.6N (15%) lower than the worst combination.