SafeWork urges farmers to take safety precautions with harvest

Farmers are being urged to be vigilant around machinery as the approximately $2 billion wheat harvest gets underway across western NSW.

SafeWork NSW Executive Director, Tony Williams, said with growing pressure to get the product from the field and into the silo or to market, it was imperative that farm managers and contractors led the rural workforce in being safe around machinery.

“We know it’s important to be efficient during harvest, but we also know that agricultural equipment, including harvesters, tractors and quad bikes are responsible for the majority of farm related fatalities and life changing injuries,” Mr Williams said.

“And in agriculture, we are seeing that the 20-29-year-old age group is responsible for 29 per cent of all workers compensation claims.

“But there are some practical things farmers can do to ensure the safety of all employees, contractors and visitors throughout this busy time.

“It is critical that all equipment has the right guards in place to protect workers from moving parts. Emergency stop switches must be in working order and easily accessible and all interlocks that prevent operation when guards are removed or open must be functioning. 

“Many serious injuries have occurred and people have lost their lives due to simply not shutting down the engine and locking out the ignition when doing routine maintenance or clearing blockages, so don’t take the risk.   

“Moving large machinery can also have its challenges so farmers should ensure power lines and poles are clearly marked, and that all workers and contractors are made aware of their locations.

“Falls on farms are also a problem with silos, windmills, buildings and farm machinery being the main culprits. A broad range of devices are now available to reduce the need to climb silos including ground level hatch opening devices, level indicators and fumigant applicators. It is important to ensure the proper precautions are in place before you leave the ground.”

Mr Williams said SafeWork NSW provides a range of free guidance materials on how to reduce risks and improve safety on farms and rural workplaces.  He also encourages farmers to take advantage SafeWork’s free advisory visit service that can both help farmers create an action plan to cover off safety issues, and qualify them for a $500 safety rebate that can be used to make on farm improvements.

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