Ensuring Machinery Safety on Farms: A Right to Go Home

11 August 2023

Last week’s Coroner's Report was an unfortunate reminder of the devastating toll of machinery-related accidents on farms, an issue we have written about in this column previously. From four-wheelers to tractors, accidents like rollovers or from unguarded moving parts can still occur. Any death in our community is one too many, and safety is an issue we should always be mindful of.

In Tasmania, the state recorded 16 deaths in the past ten years and 500 injuries were reported just in 2021 – 22. Disturbingly, machinery operators face the highest risk of work-related fatalities.

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Operator error, fatigue, distraction, and impairment are just some of the risk factors that can contribute to these tragic incidents. It is crucial for all involved to recognise these hazards and proactively address them in our daily work routines.

One fundamental aspect of mitigating machinery-related accidents is adherence to stringent safety measures. New operators must be properly inducted into machinery operation, and existing staff must be properly inducted with new machinery. There have been fatalities with brand-new tractors. Safety must not be compromised by overriding, modifying, or removing crucial safety features.

Fatigue management must also be an integral part of the safety plan for all farm operations. Workers, operators and contractors should be aware of identifying signs of fatigue and know what to do. Employing practical risk-reduction measures, such as task changes, regular breaks, and regular fatigue checks, can significantly improve overall safety and long-term productivity on farms.

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Operator impairment, be it age-related, medical or due to alcohol or drug use, also poses a potential risk and must be addressed where operating machinery is concerned.

Regular maintenance, upgrading guards, and implementing safety features are essential in any safety management plan. Farmers with older machinery or machinery purchased second-hand should ensure that it is fit for purpose before it is used. This may entail retrofitting appropriate safety features such as Safe Tractor Access Platforms to enable the safe and legal use of older machinery. Farm machinery manufacturers and suppliers are legally obliged to provide safe machinery to consumers.

Addressing safety concerns goes beyond mere acknowledgement; it requires a systematic approach to risk reduction. Everyone has the right to go home at the end of a day's work.