Tractor safety a priority

Farm Safe urges farmers to be aware hazards related to machinery

Safe Hands
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Farm Safe urges farmers to be aware hazards related to tractors and machinery on farm.

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Despite quad bikes leading the headlines in accidents and fatalities, due in part to the high numbers of recreational riders, tractors and other machinery remain the number one cause of death and injury for the farm workplace.

Injury related to farm machinery range from primary hazards, such as tractor roll-over, being run over by machinery and incidents related to PTOs, hydraulics and augers, as well as secondary hazards such as hearing loss and ergonomic back injuries.

Chair of Farm Safe and the National Farmers Federation workforce committee Charles Armstrong said the first thing farmers and operators could do to reduce incidents was keep safety front of mind all the time.

"Rather then thinking about getting the job done, and the job done quickly, think about safety first," he said.

Mr Armstrong said while the number of incidents could be considered low by an operator compared to the hours spent on a tractor, people still needed to maintain vigilance.

"Get in the mindset that tractors and machinery are dangerous, and can be very dangerous, think about what might go wrong and how you can mitigate it before it happens," he said.

Just remember, someone has had an accident that caused that guard to be put there in the first place - Charles Armstrong, Farm Safe

Mr Armstrong said reducing incidents began at purchase, where you could look for design features that increased safety.

"Look at tractors that have the steps for getting in the cab outside the wheel, rather than in front of the wheel. A lot of the older models have steps right in front of the back wheel, if the steps are out further and the wheel is still turning you are well clear of it," he said.

"It's purchasing machines with good visibility, generally the manufacturers have made improvements in this area through the design of the cab, sloping the bonnet down and the positioning of seat.

"Don't remove guards, I know they are a headache but they are there for a purpose.

"It might be a nuisance for someone trying to grease something or unblock a header, but these days they are fairly easy to take off and put back on.

"Just remember, someone has had an accident that caused that guard to be put there in the first place."

Mr Armstrong said despite improvements in cabin noise shielding it was still important to wear ear muffs or ear plugs to protect hearing.

"Even though the cabin might be quiet, how many times do you step out of the cab with the engine still running," he said.

Mr Armstrong said a significant proportion of machinery incidents occurred when working outside the cabin.

"When working around tractors it is about communication and thinking about safety and danger," he said.

"You shouldn't think a machine is totally safe and predictable in what it may do, if something can happen, it probably will."

Mr Armstrong said in regards of operator safety, for new employees or ones less familiar with a piece of equipment it was vitally important to carry out an induction and training process.

"Employers need to take quite a bit of time to make sure the new person is made as familiar as they can be with the equipment," he said.

Mr Armstrong said Farm Safe Australia have a number of hazard checklists for machinery, including tractors and augers, available on their website.

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