News and Views

Prioritising safety this harvest

Grain growers are being encouraged to implement strategies to ensure harvest 2016 is a safe one.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is backing calls by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety for the prioritisation of the welfare of all those involved in harvesting this year’s crops.

Alan Umbers, GRDC Manager Grower Services, says harvest is a testing time of the year for the nation’s growers so being well prepared is critical.

“It is important that growers remain firmly focused on planning for a safe and successful harvest, especially after having to contend with numerous challenges during the 2016 growing season, from frosts in the west through to flooding and waterlogging in the southern and northern cropping regions,” Mr Umbers said.

Dr Tony Lower, Director of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, says now is the time to make sure that growers and their most important resource – the people who work with and for them – are safe and up to the tasks ahead.

“Growers experience intense pressure and fatigue during harvest, and there is usually a higher number of inexperienced seasonal workers employed – all factors that expose the industry to a heightened risk of danger,” said Dr Lower, whose work is supported through the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership, of which the GRDC is a partner.

Dr Lower says risks can be reduced by growers employing key strategies, such as:

  • Making sure all guards on machinery and equipment (harvesters, tractors, chaser bins, silos, field bins and auger), are in place;
  • Ensuring all people working during harvest – whether employees, contractors or family members – are inducted into the way safety will be managed during the harvest, including fatigue. Expectations for safety should be made very clear to everyone;
  • Having a standard policy where all harvester/machinery engines are stopped and keys removed from the 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. Replace all guards after servicing/repairs;
  • Making everyone aware of electrical hazards and where they exist on the property. Consider having no‐go areas, if practical. Look up and live;
  • Fire is always a risk at harvest. Check that the water trailer is full, regularly clean down headers to keep trash and straw away from pulleys, belts and bearings, and fit a fire extinguisher on headers, tractors and fuel trailers.
  • Dr Lower says the mix of people, machinery, extended working hours and fatigue, makes for a potent cocktail increasing the risk of injury and downtime during harvest.

“It is in everyone’s interest to manage fatigue and while there is no one‐size fits all solution, there are things that you can do. Talking with all workers and family members about fatigue and how you will manage fatigue during the harvest as part of the induction is vital.”

“One error made in tiredness can have tragic consequences for individuals or others working on the harvest. Let’s make this harvest a productive and injury-free one,” Dr Lower said.