By its very nature, farming is a dangerous business. It involves heavy machinery and equipment, big tonnages and volumes, often imperfect operational conditions and, sometimes, very little training for the person who is bringing all these factors together.
Of the 69 farm deaths reported in the media in 2015, 15 involved quad bikes, 13 involved tractors and seven related to mobile plant or machinery. Here are some tips to make operating, maintaining and cleaning machinery as safe as possible.
FOLLOW THE MANUAL
Read and follow the instructions in the operator manual before using any piece of equipment for the first time. It will contain not just important (and potentially lifesaving) advice for using the machinery correctly but also instructions for cleaning and maintenance. It’s worth refreshing yourself every year so you don’t forget — as a silly mistake can easily become a very costly one.
Receiving proper training is the best way to ensure you and your staff members are as safe as possible when operating machinery. Proper training means you’re more likely to be using the equipment optimally and safely, for the correct purpose. It also ensures you know how to clean the equipment safely. This also allows you to practice using particularly dangerous or tricky-to-use equipment in a safe and supervised environment.
Before a plane takes off, a pilot runs through a long and specific series of checks to ensure the aircraft is fully operational. After all, it’s a bit late once the plane is in the air. The same should apply before using any piece of farm machinery or heavy equipment. Much as you’d check the oil, water, fuel and tyres (at the very least) on a car before a long journey, run all necessary checks on your farm machinery before use.
INSTALL SAFETY RAILS AND GUARDS
A lot of machinery already comes with safety rails and guards. Make sure they are in place and sturdy. Install guards, including rollover protection, in places where none exists. Leave warning stickers in place, rather than removing them. Especially make sure any fast-moving parts are clearly marked.
Make sure the machinery is completely turned off before cleaning it after use or making running repairs. Rotating parts can easily and unexpectedly catch loose clothing, long hair, or fingers. Make sure all moving parts have stopped before adjusting anything. If the equipment is mobile, make sure the brake is engaged before moving from the operator’s station.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Machinery eventually wears and requires maintenance or replacement. To get the most out of any piece of equipment, it is vital to ensure it is kept in good condition. Keeping it clean allows you to inspect for wear and tear to components like hoses, bolts, cowlings, wiring and the structure itself. Keeping your machinery clean will also help stop the spread of any diseases or weeds in certain situations.
KEEP IT MAINTAINED
Have your machinery professionally serviced as required by the warranty and continue with the regular maintenance as recommended in the instruction manual.
Earmuffs and goggles or glasses are a great start when it comes to protecting yourself around many pieces of machinery. Consider the situation you’re working in carefully and choose protective gear accordingly. Are there fast-moving parts like belts or a PTO shaft? If so, make sure you’re not wearing loose clothing. Could something fall on your head easily? Wear a helmet. Working with dangerous chemicals? Follow the instructions regarding eyewear and protective clothing and gloves.
ASSESS AND ELIMINATE HAZARDS
Where you possibly can, eliminate the hazard. As the old saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. Don’t let children near (nor operate) heavy machinery and teach them about the dangers of grain silos, augers and harvesters. If a piece of equipment you own is particularly dangerous, is there a safer alternative on the market? Is a piece of machinery unsecured? Take steps to secure it properly so it can’t fall, tip, crush or cause an injury. Do a complete safety stocktake of your property and fix anything that might present a hazard. This should be an ongoing process, not a one-off.
RST Training (http://www.regionalskillstraining.com/sites/default/files/content/OMME%20Book%201.pdf) and WorkSafe Victoria (https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/12510/vwa_mach_and_equip_safety.pdf)
This information has been provided as a guide only. WFI (ABN 24 000 036 279 AFSL 241461) makes no warranties about the accuracy or completeness of this information. WFI, including its directors, affiliates, officers, employees, agents and contractors, do not accept any liability for any loss, damage or other injury resulting from its use. This information doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should consider these matters and the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before you act on any advice. You can get a copy of our PDSs from our website at www.wfi.com.au or by calling 1300 934 934. If you purchase any WFI product we will charge you a premium, plus any taxes and charges, based on your risk profile and circumstances.