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Captive-bolt stunning equipment is potentially lethal to the operator. However, the equipment includes a number of inbuilt safety features:

  1. The bolt is ‘captive’ within the barrel of the stunner, rather than a free bullet which could ricochet around the slaughterhall.
  2. Recuperator sleeves automatically return the bolt to its pre-firing position. This prevents it from becoming embedded in the animal’s head and reduces the possibility of the operator being dragged down as the animal falls.
  3. The double ‘rolling block’ action necessitates at least two positive actions by the slaughterman before it is possible to fire.
  4. Most trigger-fired stunners have anti-drop mechanisms which prevent them firing if accidentally dropped, even when fully cocked.
  5. There is a need for positive action from the ‘safe’ position on contact-fired equipment.

Safety procedures

In the EU, manufacturers of stunning equipment are required by law to provide instructions for the safe and proper use and maintenance of the equipment; manufacturers' instructions must always be followed. All operators of stunning equipment should be properly trained in its safe operation and maintenance. Equipment must be regularly checked by a qualified engineer and the following procedures should be observed:

  1. When handling captive-bolt equipment, during and on completion of loading, the muzzle of the stunner must at be pointed away from any part of the operator’s, or any other person’s, body at all times.
  2. Refer to the manufacturer’s instruction sheet for the correct loading procedure and the correct cartridge size. Avoid repeated use of too heavy a cartridge, or air shots, which can result in the bolt shearing and flying free of the stunner.
  3. Captive-bolt stunners should always be handled as if they are loaded.
  4. Once the stunner has been loaded, ensure that the mechanism is in the ‘safe’ position until an animal is ready to be stunned.
  5. Never leave a loaded stunner unattended.
  6. In the event of a misfire, do not open the stunner breech for 30 seconds. Sometimes slow primer ignition will cause a ‘hang fire’ and the cartridge will explode after a short pause.
  7. At the end of the day’s kill, return the stunner to the person appointed to carry out the daily cleaning procedure.
  8. Make certain the stunner is unloaded before cleaning.
  9. Immediately report any faults in the operation of the stunner to the person responsible for maintenance and do not use the equipment until the fault has been rectified.
  10. When not in use, ensure that captive-bolt equipment is stored securely at all times.

The captive-bolt stunner is a dangerous firearm, never point the muzzle of a stunner at yourself or anyone else.

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