WorkSafe is calling on all farmers to be proactive and ensure the safety of themselves and their employees during the hay harvest season.
History has shown that hay harvest season is a busy and dangerous time for Victorian farmers.
Only last week a man suffered a serious hand injury while clearing a blockage in a harvest machine near Macarthur in the state’s west.
WorkSafe’s General Manager of Health and Safety Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said this time of the year was one of the most hazardous on Victorian farms.
“With the hay season upon us, the dangers often involved in farming will be magnified, particularly if the weather turns and people rush to get silage cut and stored,” she said.
“Taking the time to think through how the job can be done as safely as possible, understanding the hazards at every stage of the harvesting operation and following it with action could make a huge difference.”
Common safety issues identified on farms include dangers of machine blockages, fire risks, overhead power lines, working alone, machine guarding and plant being used for other than its intended purpose.
Ms Sturzenegger said getting on top of farm safety was often challenging because it might not be something farmers thought about every day.
”Farms need to be treated like any other workplace, even if it’s a small, family operated business,” Ms Sturzenegger said.
“Farmers, workers and contractors have shared obligations when working on farms – they don’t have to be dangerous. Farms can be made safer, but it needs a team effort.”
“It’s about knowing what can go wrong and how to safely fix or assess the issue, even if you done it a thousand times before,” she said.
The reminder comes after WorkSafe launched their year-long safety campaign in July to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities occurring on farms.
Throughout the year, inspectors will focus primarily on dairy and beef cattle farms, as well as targeting dangerous machinery and unsafe manual handling across the sector.
WorkSafe Victoria's safety tips for surviving the harvest season
- Properly maintain plant, particularly brakes, hydraulics, steering, tyre inflation and tread (poorly inflated tyres contribute to tyre rollover), and ensure machinery maintenance is up to date.
- Machinery must only be used for its intended purpose. For example, a front end loader bucket is not the correct implement for lifting large, square or round hay bales or grabbing hay. Terrain can be a killer.
- Even relatively flat country can hide depressions that can cause vehicles to tip.
- Understand the limitations of the machinery and vehicles you’re using. Don’t overload them and use the right machine for the job.
- If something is blocked or broken, plan the clearance or repair job – shut all machinery down, remove all sources of energy before attempting to clear any blockages, and reinstate all guards before resuming work.
- Be aware of where power lines are and height of machinery – follow No Go Zone rules (found at worksafe.vic.gov.au).
- If working at height (eg on silos and field bins) ensure appropriate fall protection is in place.
- Review how heavy lifting work is to be done - for example stacking bales.
- Ensure it’s done so muscle and bone injuries are prevented.
- Contractors must be inducted to the property and consulted about safety issues.
- Plant must only be used by competent and trained persons.
- Prevent sun exposure and heat exhaustion. Slip, slop, slap is an old rule but a good one.
- Snakes can be a hazard. Wear appropriate clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and boots.
- Keep a phone or other means of communication on you so help can be called if necessary.
- Let someone know where you’ll be working and when you’re due back, and have an emergency communications plan.
- Make sure machinery and vehicles are kept away from pedestrians and that they are operating at a safe speed.
- Children in areas where people and machines are working can be away from machines and areas where work is being carried out.
- Harvesting often requires long hours including early starts and /or late finishes so be aware of fatigue and take regular rest breaks, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, eat nourishing food.
- Keep the weather forecast in mind. If you’re tarping grain, be aware of the potential for high winds.
- Consider your fire prevention needs for the harvest and as s the season dries - consider fire risks and how will you respond.
There’s a range of resources and guidance that businesses can use to help make workplaces safer, which can be found by visiting worksafe.vic.gov.au
WorkSafe media enquiries: Rosanna Bonaccurso 0478 305 640 or Peter Flaherty 0478 881 663
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.