New technologies are constantly being introduced into barns due to promised benefits and enhanced profitability. However, these innovations can also introduce new challenges and costs, such as the impact of new technologies on worker health and safety. 

So how do you know if it will work in your specific situation?  Prairie Swine Centre and the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture have collaborated to develop a simple, personalizable web calculator that can help predict the value of technology adoption. This multidimensional tool incorporates implementation costs, productivity, and health and safety impacts, and was developed to help forecast the overall benefit of investing in new technology.

The technology decision calculator was developed based on the test case of needle-less injectors, the topic of a research study at the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture.

Details on the Research Project

Comprehensive evaluation of new technology in swine farming using needle-less injection as a test case

Agriculture in general, and pig farming in particular, have many risk factors for musculoskeletal injury and disorders. Being a production-oriented and economically-driven industry, the rapid intensification in pork production has continually introduced new processes and equipment, although the pace of developing workplace health and safety evaluation tools to implement injury prevention interventions has not kept up with progress on the production side. In order to evaluate workplace health and safety relative to improvements in productivity this project developed a decision tool applicable to new workplace technologies. The tool is multidimensional, incorporating implementation costs, productivity changes, health and safety impacts, and worker feedback and preference. The test case for this assessment toolkit was needle-less injectors, a timely and archetypal technological change in swine production.

The specific study objectives were:

1)      To investigate the implementation of needle-less injectors in terms of cost, productivity, injury rates, biomechanical exposures, and worker preference;

2)      To develop a suite of decision-making tools for evaluating the occupational health and safety benefits, as well as business impacts, of new technologies;

3)      To disseminate the toolkit to pork production and other livestock stakeholders.

This study investigated the implementation of needle-less injectors in terms of cost, productivity, injury rates, biomechanical exposures, and worker preference; and develop a suite of decision-making tools for evaluating the occupational health and safety benefits, as well as business impacts, of new technologies. 

We investigated the difference between needle and needle-less injection in several ways:

  1. Ergonomic Exposure Assessment: Sixteen 2- to 4-hour assessments was made on swine workers performing injection tasks with both injection methods. Muscle activity (EMG), gripping force, and upper limb posture was measured throughout this time. 
  2. Productivity Analysis: Video recordings during the exposure assessments was compared; the duration and repetition for each injection method was analyzed using time and motion methods.  
  3. Injury Records: WCB claim and incident report data from up to 60 pig barns in Saskatchewan and Manitoba was analyzed for needle-stick and musculoskeletal injuries pre and post adoption of needle-less injectors.  
  4. Management Interviews/Worker Focus Groups: Workers and managers were asked what they like and dislike about each method, as well as what helps and hinders successful implementation.  
  5. Economic Analysis: The information above was inputted into a cost-benefit model to determine the net benefits of needle-less injectors in terms of occupational health, worker preference and the financial ‘bottom line’ of the farm.  
  6. Integrated Knowledge Translation: Industry stakeholders and key partners were involved in study planning and interpretation of findings through stakeholder meetings.

Study Findings

Each aspect of the study led to specific findings:

  • Despite initial hypotheses that the needle-less injector would introduce new musculoskeletal risks, we found either no difference or decreases in muscle force (deceasing 24-26%) and movement speed (decreasing 7-15%) compared to conventional injection
  • After implementation of the needle less injector, there was no change in the rate of musculoskeletal disorders. However, the rate of needlestick injuries went down substantially.
  • Productivity was measured by injection task duration.  We found productivity went up; injection tasks took more than twice as long for expert conventional needle users than expert needle-less injector users. 
  • Worker feedback suggested that aspects of the needle-less injector could promote or inhibit use depending on the context; for example, maintenance can be a barrier if you need to send a broken unit out for repair, but many issues can be addressed by skilled in-house maintenance staff.  Primary recommendations pertained to increasing portability, enhancing ease of cleaning, and implementing feedback mechanisms to indicate injection success/failure and low vaccine levels.
  • The economic net benefit of needle-less injection was slightly higher than that of conventional needle, although these benefits are limited to larger facilities (greater than 400 sows).  Due to the large start-up costs of the needle-less injector, the economic benefits begin accruing after the first year.

Using the Decision-Making Calculator

The technology decision tool can be accessed via the Prairie Swine Centre ‘Tools’ website, and can be personalized to your barn’s situation.  In many cases, it is not possible to know in advance what all the costs will be.  Since it is not always possible to get precise costs when estimating the amount of labour, maintenance, and productivity increases, this tool also provides information to allow for educated estimates. We provide background information, things to consider, and the dollar-value results from the needle-less injector study. Of course, each new technology is different, but it is hoped that this background information will allow you to make an educated guess about the numbers for your enterprise.

Of course, all model reports are estimates and not a guarantee.  The model cannot account for all possible variables and is only as accurate as the numbers given as inputs.  This tool allows you to select the range of certainty for your cost estimates, resulting in a range of potential cost-benefit estimates. The lowest estimates from cost benefit analysis are considered the most conservative, i.e. the worst-case scenario. If the conservative 'worst case scenario' is still profitable, then the model projects that your organization would still benefit from the new technology even with the worst combination of costs and benefits.  You can also re-run reports for different values, and see how small differences can add up.

We invite you to try using this web calculator for your next project and see how it works.

We would love to hear your feedback!  With questions or feedback about the tool, feel free to contact us directly: Abisola Omoniyi, Study Coordinator (306-966-5971, email: abisola.omoniyi@usask.ca)

Publications and Resources

Try the decision-making calculator

Promotion card describing the decision making tool

Newsletter article summarizing study results and introducing the decision making tool from 2019

Link to video summarizing study results and introducing the decision making tool from 2019 

Report to the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (check back for an update)

Study update from 2016

Study update video from 2016

Scientific Articles

Trask, C., Bath, B.,  Milosavljevic, S., Kociolek A..M., Predicala, B., Penz, E., Adebayo, O., Whittington, L. Evaluating swine injection technologies as a workplace musculoskeletal injury intervention: a study protocol. BioMed Research International. Volume 2017, Article ID 5094509, 9 pages  https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5094509


This project was funded by the Workers' Compensation Board of Manitoba.

This research was supported in part by the Canada Research Chairs program [#228136].

Study Team

This project was completed through the efforts of several investigators:

  • Bernardo Predicala, Investigator, University of Saskatchewan/ Prairie Swine Centre, SK
  • Lee Whittington, Investigator, University of Saskatchewan/ Prairie Swine Centre, SK
  • Brenna Bath, Investigator, University of Saskatchewan
  • Erika Penz, University of Saskatchewan
  • Olugbenga Adebayo, PhD Student, University of Saskatchewan
  • Stephan Milosavjlevic, Investigator, University of Saskatchewan
  • Catherine Trask, Investigator, University of Saskatchewan
  • Xiaoke Zeng, Research Assistant, University of Saskatchewan
  • Aaron Kociolek, Investigator, University of Saskatchewan
  • Abisola Omoniyi, Research Assistant, University of Saskatchewan

Stakeholder Advisory Group

In addition to the investigator team, this study benefitted from the contributions of several industry stakeholders who provided insight into the swine industry and helped facilitate many aspects of the study.  More details on the work of the Stakeholder Advisory Group is found in the methods section.

  • Janice Goldsborough, Manitoba Pork Council
  • Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork Council
  • Bobbie-Jo Porter, Personnel Manager, OlySky (Pork Producer), SK &MB
  • James Battershill, Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba
  • Harvey Wagner, Sask Pork Development Board
  • Bridget Gray, Sask Pork Development Board
  • Ravneet Kaur, Sask Pork Development Board
  • Gail Archer-Heese, SAFE Work Manitoba Prevention Consultant
  • Bruce Ceilen, WCB Manitoba
  • Joanne Machado, WCB Manitoba
  • Korine Talbot, Veterinarian, Hylife (Pork Producer), MB
  • Tatjana Ometlic, Production Worker, Prairie Swine Centre, SK
  • Marcel Hacault, CASA
  • Miles Beaudin, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Livestock Division
  • James Battershill, Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba