Don't get screwed by an auger
Grain augers are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on a farm. The rapidly rotating metal spiral flight mechanism can whisk a finger or hand about 1.5 metres away before the injured person has time to react.
Other components such as outside casing are regularly involved in electric shock or tipping-over accidents, and moving parts such as cranking handles, drive chains and belts also contribute to injury.
Let's talk about statistics
According to Farmsafe, there is, on average, 1 death and 16 workers’ compensation claims per year involving grain augers in Australia. There will be many more injuries, as most day-to-day work on farms is done by self-employed farmers and their families, and these injuries will not be included in the official workers compensation figures.
It’s likely that there are around 60 serious injuries involving farm augers each year. Most injuries are crush injury or amputation of fingers, hands, arms and feet caused by limbs being caught in unguarded auger flights.
As most farms that handle grain have at least one grain-auger, many farm workers and their families are exposed to the risk of injury. But some simple safety checks and effective guarding would help to prevent these serious injuries.
What you can do to safeguard against auger accidents
There should always be two levels of guarding - an inner guard permanently fitted over the flighting and a fitted outer guard. The inner guard must be in place when the grain auger is being used. The outer guard must be in position when using a hopper and, so far as is reasonably practicable, for all other uses.
Where it is not reasonably practicable to use the outer guard and it is removed, for example when the grain auger is being used in a silo with a narrow chute that the guard will not fit into, ensure people are not directly exposed to the auger flighting during operation. In these situations it may be necessary to provide an alternative outer guard. Be sure to replace the outer guard when operations are finished.
How to keep safe while operating an auger:
- Ensure all guards are in place before augers are operated, especially after maintenance
- Guard auger drive trains (belts, pulleys, drive shafts) and the rotating screw fitting
- Locate mobile augers on firm, preferably flat ground, and operate at a shallow angle less than 45 degrees to prevent overbalancing
- Lower and empty mobile augers when being transported
- Ensure the emergency stop control is next to the auger inlet
- Ensure winches are properly guarded to prevent hands being caught between the winch drum and the wire rope
- Check that wire ropes used for raising and lowering the auger are fastened using swaged, socketed or spliced eyes and thimbles
- Display safety signs warning of risks clearly on the equipment
- Provide operating instructions housed in a weatherproof container
- Ensure suitable PPE is provided to workers using the auger
- Wear hearing protectors while the equipment is operating
- Be aware of overhead power lines when moving an auger
- Never start augers before checking the area is clear of people – create a work zone and ensure others, especially children and visitors, are kept clear of a very dangerous work area.
- Avoid single operator operations when loading or unloading grain trucks
- If you will be working remotely and alone, tell someone where you will be working and have a communication plan with regular check-in times
- General Guide for Managing the Risks of Machinery in Rural Workplaces, Safe Work Australia
- Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice, Safe Work Australia,
- Tests put the screws on grain transfer, Kondinin Group, Research Report Augers
- Guarding Grain Augers – A guide to fitting a more practical guard, The University of Sydney
- Injuries associated with grain augers in Australia, A report for the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, A Athanasiov, L Fragar, M Gupta
Originally published 09 January, 2020.