Thursday 13 January 2011

Farm safety campaign hits midpoint

Nearly 300 safety improvement notices* have been issued to Victorian farmers in the first six months of WorkSafe’s farm safety campaign.

The year-long campaign began at the start of July and targets the most common causes of death and serious injury on farms.

WorkSafe’s Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Director Ross Pilkington said one work-related farm death had occurred since the campaign began, compared to six deaths in the preceding six months.

“Although we wouldn’t want to draw any conclusions from this reduced fatality rate, we’d like to think that it signals that safety is firmly on the agenda for Victorian farmers.

“Whatever the reason, WorkSafe is urging farmers to continue this focus into 2011,” he said.

Mr Pilkington said that over half the notices issued by inspectors in the first six months of the campaign had addressed safety issues with plant (machinery or heavy equipment).

Safety issues identified by inspectors included missing guarding on grain augers, wool presses, mulchers, sprayers, and slashers;  forklifts without seatbelts; pallet racking being overloaded; quad bike operators without helmets; and tractors without roll-over protection.

“If you’re working with plant which is poorly maintained or inadequately guarded, you’re significantly increasing your chance of injury. And you’re not going to walk away with a few scrapes – the injuries we see from heavy vehicles and machinery are generally a lot more serious,” Mr Pilkington said.

Of the remaining notices issued in the last six months, nearly 20% required safety improvements concerning chemicals.

“Check that pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals are stored safely and securely, especially if there are children on the property. Washing your hands after handling chemicals is also essential,” Mr Pilkington said.

Dangerous manual handling practices and risks of slips, trips and falls accounted for 10% of notices issued in the first half of the campaign.

“Muscle and bone injuries account for well over half of all injuries reported to WorkSafe – they’re often caused when people take a short-cut to get a job done quickly rather than taking a more considered approach.

“These avoidable injuries aren’t just from heavy lifting, they’re caused by everyday actions like getting in and out of vehicles, and repetitive movements when using heavy machinery,” he said.

Mr Pilkington said safety needed to stay on the agenda over the last months of harvesting.

“Death and injury rates are dropping across the community over the long term, but the improvement is not happening fast enough - and families, the wider community and rural business are paying the price.

“Of the 23 Victorians who didn’t come home from work last year, 12 of these deaths were in regional Victoria, and seven were working in agriculture.

“Dozens more received life-threatening injuries, with more than 29,000 suffering an injury that required time off work or extensive medical treatment.

“We want regional Victorians to stop and think about what is ultimately important to them, why safe workplaces are needed, and what they can do to prevent more families being put in this position,” he said.

WorkSafe’s safety tips for farmers:

  • Make sure your tractor has roll over protection and falling object protection
  • If you’re working at height, use a scaffold, elevated work platform or fall protection device. Never travel on top of loads on vehicles or trailers
  • Make sure you’re using machinery for the purpose it’s intended. For example, when using a quad bike, only tow attachments and loads in accordance with the manufacturers specifications
  • Be aware of the proximity of powerlines in paddocks where harvesting is underway
  • Keep children away from work sites and machinery in operation – particularly during loading and unloading operations
  • Fatigue leads to impaired judgement – take regular breaks, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nourishing food
  • To avoid sun exposure and heat exhaustion, cover up and carry plenty of water
  • When tarping grain or covering loads on vehicles, be aware of the weather forecast and avoid working in high winds
  • If you’re doing manual tasks like lifting heavy or awkward objects on or off vehicles, use a vehicle loading arm to prevent muscle and bone injuries
  • If you’re working alone, always let someone know where you are and your expected time of return.

* Improvement notices require specific safety improvements to be made within a set timeframe.

Further Information

WorkSafe media enquiries: Rosanna Bonaccurso 0478 305 640

Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email info@worksafe.vic.gov.au or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.