In November 2018, a worker was fatally injured after he fell 15 metres while trying to move a large mobile grain auger away from a silo. Early investigations indicate the weight of the opposing end of the auger was greater than the end he was holding. As he pulled the auger away from the silo, the opposing end dropped, propelling him into the air. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Agricultural plant is safe when operated properly, however, like any equipment, it becomes dangerous if used incorrectly. Before operating, PCBUs must ensure the manufacturer’s operating instructions have been read and are followed. If operating instructions are not available, operational procedures and instructions for use should be developed by a competent person.
For auger safety, ensure:
- the auger is empty before moving it
- for height adjustable augers, the auger is as close to the ground as possible during travel
- the auger is stowed in the correct transportation configuration prior to it being transported or moved
- the auger is moved slowly to prevent the likelihood of the auger tipping over, particularly long inclined augers
- before moving the auger, inspect the ground conditions along the intended path of travel to ensure the auger can maintain stability during travel
- the auger does not travel over potholes, depressions, soft ground, uneven ground surfaces or any objects that could destabilise the auger and cause it to tip over.
When not being used, the auger must be safely stored so that it is stable and does not pose a risk of falling onto anyone, particularly while it is being prepared for use again.
The grain auger must be inspected regularly to ensure it is functioning correctly. All problems must be rectified before it’s used again. All safety features must be maintained to ensure they are functioning as intended. Where parts or components need replacing, replacements must be identical or equivalent to the original parts and components.
If the grain auger needs repairing, the repairs should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Where there are no instructions available for the particular repair required, the owner should seek advice from the manufacturer or their agent, or have the necessary work completed or specified by a competent person.
Since 2013, there have been 1798 notified events involving workers or bystanders falling from heights. Of these, 40 were fatal (though not all were work related) and 1284 involved a serious injury. Seventy-six were specifically falls from height from mobile plant.
In this time we have issued 2959 notices for the risk of falls from heights.
Each year there are around 150 accepted workers’ compensation claims involving a worker falling from height associated with mobile plant. More than half involve a serious injury needing five days or more off work. The rural industry accounts for over 20 per cent of claims, with mobile plant including tractors, harvesters and other farm equipment.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2018, a person acting as trustee for a farming business was fined $20,000 and received a court ordered undertaking with $15,000 recognisance after a worker fell more than three metres onto a concrete floor. He fell from an unrestrained timber crate mounted on the tynes of a Manitou forklift being used as an elevated work platform. He was assisting with the repair of a shed roof. During the repair, building materials in the crate became wedged and the worker attempted to separate them. As a result the materials fell, causing the crate to overbalance throwing him to the floor and then landing on top of him.
In 2018, a farming business was fined $50,000 and received a court ordered undertaking with $50,000 recognisance, after a fruit picker fell approximately two metres to the ground, sustaining severe back injuries. He was accessing fruit trees using a modified elevating work platform and wooden planks. As he walked out on the plank, he grabbed a tree branch for stability, but another branch contacted the side of his leg causing him to lose balance and fall to the ground.