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What are the most talked about hazards on your farm?

 

Workplace hazards vary widely across the sectors of the agricultural industry, for example, a dairy worker will face different daily challenges to a grain grower. However, the safety messages remain the same. Maintaining a healthy and safe workplace is centred on prevention, awareness and constructive solutions.

Dairy

Figures show between 2014 and 2018, there were 11 fatalities in dairies of which most resulted from vehicle incidents (42% in 2018). The main causes of serious injury are being hit by an animal (22%); falls on the same level (13%); and vehicle incidents (10%).

The dairy industry’s safety challenges come from:

  • animal handling
  • machinery and equipment use
  • working in confined spaces
  • slips, trips and falls, and
  • noise exposure.

A few solutions include animal handling training which leads to improved understanding of cow behaviours, wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) including non-slip waterproof boots, and appropriate machinery maintenance, guarding in place and ensuring all operators are licensed or trained where appropriate.

Viticulture

Across the grape growing and wine manufacturing industries, injuries to workers from fatigue and poor manual handling techniques are the core areas for concern.

Common causes of injury experienced by workers in vineyards and wineries include:

  • operating equipment on hillsides and uneven terrain
  • pushing and lifting heavy bins, tubs, barrels, pumps, hoses, and mixers
  • using pruning shears and picking knives
  • working with hazardous chemicals
  • entering confined spaces
  • insect bites
  • working at night

Some solutions include appropriate training and licensing for machinery operators, particularly seasonal workers, reducing slip, trip and fall hazards through good hygiene practices, and ensuring workers have access to the correct personal protective equipment to prevent weather and noise exposure.

Horticulture

Horticulture is an industry reliant on manual activities including harvesting and packaging of fruit and vegetables. Manual handling injuries can result either from gradual wear and tear over time or sudden damage and the focus should be on minimising the risk.

Some common risk factors for manual tasks include:

  • handling heavy or bulky loads
  • twisting the back, neck and upper body
  • reaching and load handling at low levels and above shoulder height
  • load handling on one side of the body
  • sustained and repetitive gripping
  • repetitive movements
  • lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling
  • working under time pressures
  • working in hot, humid or cold environments
  • inadequate task variety or work breaks.

Consider modifying tools and equipment or using mechanical aids such as pallet jacks, trolleys and height adjustable work benches, changing working hours to allow for hard work to be undertaken during the cooler times of the day, and modifying loads by size or weight or container to lessen manual handling stressors.

Grain Growing

Key hazards for grain growers centre on plant and machinery, confined spaces, chemicals, fatigue and falls. Fatigue is a safety risk that is commonly underestimated, but cause of incident figures show it to be a key factor, especially during certain times of the season. Falling asleep is a real risk when working longer hours at those critical times such as seeding or harvesting.

Some solutions include planning adequate rest breaks, wearing correct personal protective equipment and weather appropriate clothing, installing guards on machinery and having up-to-date maintenance plans in place and ensuring elevated work areas have guard railings or other forms of fall prevention in place.

Solutions for plant and machinery include ensuring proper guards are in place especially for things like augers and PTOs. Confined spaces, working at heights and chemical use have short courses to train workers how to manage these safely.

Livestock and Shearing

Workers in livestock industries need a basic understanding of animal behaviour and livestock control procedures. Hazards in this industry that can be controlled include equipment maintenance, animal movement procedures and manual handling.

Try including regular stockyard maintenance for gates, ramps and loading equipment, separation and access procedures for people and livestock, plant and equipment maintenance, and good housekeeping practices in terms of maintaining effluent drainage and clearing grates to reduce risk of trips and falls. Gentle handling of livestock will reduce the risk of harm to workers and the animals, for example allowing sheep to settle for at least half an hour before shearing should reduce the risk of injury to the shearer as the animal will be calmer.

Originally published 30 January, 2020.

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