Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 089 November-December 2010 - North
Machinery, fatigue and pressure can be lethal As harvest marks the onset of the grains industry’s most dangerous period, growers are urged to heed the warnings and work safely Farm safety November – December 2010 GrouND cover 26 By Melissa Branagh-McConachy n Machinery, fatigue and pressure to get the crop off are a potentially lethal combination during harvest, contributing to the wheatbelt’s reputation as one of agriculture’s most dangerous workplaces. While safety awareness has helped to reduce the number of farm-related fatalities from 150 to just below 100 in the past decade, figures show that grain growers are still a high-risk group, with harvesters and augers implicated in a high number of incidents. According to a study conducted by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of Sydney (ACAHS), the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC), the death rate for farmers is 33 per cent higher than that of the general male population and most agricultural injuries and fatalities linked to vehicles, plant and machinery occur in the grains industry. Of 405 workers’ compensation claims for self-propelled plant injuries recorded by the NOHSC between 1994-95 and 1999-00, more than half were harvester injuries. Tractor injuries accounted for 48 per cent of the 1505 claims related to other mobile plant. Farmsafe Australia has reported that work- related grower deaths are predominantly associated with harvesting, grain handling and storage activities. The agricultural health and safety agency cites entanglement in exposed auger belts and shafts, and electrocution caused by machinery connection with overhead powerlines, as major risks. Farmsafe Australia’s executive officer John Temperley says statistics show the number of farm deaths is highest during harvest, with most recorded in December, followed by January and November. “Harvest is the grains industry’s busiest time and injuries are more frequent when growers experience intense pressure and fatigue as they try to meet deadlines,” Mr Temperley says. “Unguarded augers and power take off (PTO) shafts are the main cause of injury to hands and feet, the most traumatic resulting in amputation.” Mr Temperley says an increase in the number of ‘run over’ accidents has coincided with a greater uptake of new technologies in recent years. GPS guidance has revolutionised yield mapping and autosteer has increased efficiency and reduced driver fatigue. However, over-reliance on ‘autopilot’ systems and concentration lapses can have disastrous outcomes. “Autosteer does not absolve operators from responsibility,” Mr Temperley says. “Stepping on or off moving vehicles – no matter how slowly they are crawling along – is extremely dangerous. Similarly, if operators become distracted reading or using mobile phones rather than concentrating on the operating environment, they risk collision with tractors, chaser bins or other objects.” Augers, belts and pulleys, and falls from silos and trucks also pose serious threats when grain is moved off-farm. Acknowledgement that the human and economic costs of unsafe farming practices are avoidable motivated the GRDC’s involvement in the production of a new guide, OH&S Managing Grain Production Safety, which has been endorsed by Farmsafe. Produced under the Farming and Fishing Health and Safety Collaborative Partnership managed by the RIRDC, the manual contains practical advice on the hazards and risks associated with grain production and handling. It includes guidelines on how to implement risk controls to prevent injury and meet occupational health and safety (OH&S) regulatory requirements. The guide suggests measures to address common mechanical, manual, biological, chemical and electrical dangers. Hazards and risk controls specific to harvest, grain handling and storage are summarised at right. The guide includes checklists including a Pre-Harvest Safety Checklist, guidance notes and templates that help growers to identify hazards requiring attention and to keep records of management processes. Growers are encouraged to use the guide in conjunction with the Managing Health and Safety in the Grain Industry risk management tool available on the Farmsafe Australia website (www.farmsafe.org.au). □ GRDC Research Code RDC00004 More information: John Temperley, 02 6752 8218, firstname.lastname@example.org; Farmsafe Australia, www.farmsafe.org.au; www.grdc.com.au/rDc00004 Key points n most agricultural injuries and fatalities linked to vehicles, plant and machinery occur in the grains industry n Work-related grain grower deaths are predominantly associated with harvesting, grain handling and storage n The number of farm deaths is highest during harvest n A high number of incidents involve harvesters and augers n entanglement in auger belts and shafts, and electrocution caused by machinery connection with powerlines are major risks Source: Farmsafe Australia Hazards and risk controls specific to harvest, grain handling and storage HArvesting Moving/transporting harvesters and machinery Risks: roll-over, collision, run-over Risk controls: ensure all un-cabined tractors are fitted with roll over Protection Structures (roPS); use escort vehicles when travelling on public roads; fit a reversing alarm. Use of GPS guidance systems Risks: complacency/inattention and collision with other vehicles/objects Risk controls: do not read, watch DvDs or use mobile phones during operation. Mounting/dismounting machinery Risks: slips, trips and falls Risk controls: modify harvester and machinery with poor access steps and handrails; do not mount or dismount moving machinery. In-field harvester/machine maintenance Risks: entanglement, crushing, run-over Risk controls: stop harvester/machinery engines and remove keys from ignition during maintenance; before working under raised hydraulics, header fronts and combs, ensure hydraulic and ram locks have been fitted and that the comb is chocked and supported. Operating tractors for long hours, tractor speed, poorly designed tractor seats and controls Ergonomic risks: back, shoulder, other pain and injury Risk controls: repair and maintain good seat condition; take regular breaks to exercise the neck/back. Fatigue Risk: error and collision Risk controls: ensure operators take regular rest breaks and dismount the header/machine for meal breaks. Refuelling Risks: fire, exposure to diesel and petrol fuels Risk controls: check fuel hoses and fittings for leakage; ensure a fire extinguisher is fitted to the tractor. grAin HAndling Operation of grain augers Risks: limb entanglement, crushing injuries Risk controls: ensure all auger flights, engine pulleys, drive belts and PTo shafts are properly guarded; empty and lower augers before moving to prevent toppling. Overhead powerlines Risk: connection with augers/vehicles and electrocution Risk controls: relocate or move powerlines underground, especially near silos and grain handling areas; plan to ensure a safe working distance from powerlines; mark overhead powerlines with marker balls and signs to raise attention; check for overhead powerlines before raising tip trucks and trailers. Working with field bins Risk: grain engulfment Risk controls: check field bins and silos for damage/rust and repair before use; empty field bins to prevent damage/collapse during transport; do not climb up mesh bins – use a portable ladder to prevent bending. Grain dust Risk: respiratory disease, particularly asthma Risk controls: ensure people handling grain wear dust masks; ensure asthmatics can access medication. grAin storAge Grain storage Risks: explosion by grain dust, grain engulfment Risk controls: do not enter confined spaces in grain storage sheds without completing a risk assessment; do not smoke in a silo or grain store; do not enter or work alone in a confined space without an observer present outside; turn off power, lock and tag-out switches to prevent auger operation when servicing or cleaning. generAl Working with hydraulic machinery Risk: fluid penetration from oil leaks Risk controls: check and replace leaking hydraulic hoses and fittings; ensure hydraulic ram locks have been fitted and machinery is chocked and supported before undertaking repair work. Accumulated trash around belts and pulleys Risk: fire Risk controls: ensure guards are in place to keep trash and straw away from drive pulleys and belts; check/ adjust fluid levels in drive belts and bearings; fit a fire extinguisher on the header or fuel trailer. OH&S Managing Grain Production Safety can be downloaded free from the RIRDC website (https://rirdc. infoservices.com.au/items/09-013). Printed copies can also be ordered via the website for $35.
Ground Cover 090 January-February 2011 - North
Ground Cover 088 September-October 2010 - North