Experts warn “don’t work alone in grain storages" 02 Feb 2015

Grain storage and handling involves some of the most hazardous activities in the grains industry, however experts say these dangers can be avoided by getting the right systems in place.

According to the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) fatalities and serious injuries are happening too often in the grains industry. It is urging growers to review their grain handling and storage systems in a bid to reduce the number of related fatalities and serious injuries on Australian farms.

Storage specialist Peter Botta warns that working alone is a key risk factor.

“There are risks in being a sole operator, and when you are working in a potentially hazardous environment like grain storage it’s crucial that someone knows where you are at all times. Have a second person on the site, or at least tell someone where you are going to be,” he says.

Mr Botta also has some important safety reminders for working at heights, with chemicals and with augers.

“The ultimate aim in grain storage is to remove all hazards from the workplace, and where this can’t be done, to find a way to control the risk,” he says.

“Silos that don’t have ladders are likely to lead to risky behavior. The simple advice is – don’t buy silos without one.”

Mr Botta says it is also crucial that growers use chemicals correctly – to retain the right to use them and to protect themselves from harm.

“This means using the correct gas mask when applying phosphine, and only using it in pressure tested, gas-tight storages so it doesn’t leak into work spaces,” he says.

“Growers in the eastern states now have limited access to the chemical disinfectant [insecticide] dichlorvos due to the potential for exposure and concerns as to the health effects.

“If the industry wants to retain the right to use important fumigants such as phosphine, it’s vital that growers do the right thing and use this chemical safely and appropriately.”

Mr Botta also reminds growers that augers come with guards for a reason.

“Augers are involved in too many farm incidents,” he says. 

“Most involve crush injuries or amputation of fingers, hands, arms and feet caused by limbs being caught in unguarded auger flights.”

WorkCover NSW has produced an industry standard for guarding the flight intake that will allow free flow of all grains, and all new augers should now include this improved guarding system. There is a guide available from Farmsafe Australia on how to retrofit a guard to older augers.

“Finally, develop a work health and safety plan for your business. This will help to ensure staff are adequately trained to safely use equipment, and you have a plan of action in the event that an incident occurs, including your emergency phone numbers and having a first aid kit on hand.”

  • Most hazards in grain storage are well known and can be avoided by getting the right systems in place.

  • There are risks in being a sole operator – make sure someone knows where you are at all times.

  • Purchase silos with approved ladders.

  • Use a gas mask when applying chemicals such as phosphine, and only use chemicals in pressure tested, gas-tight storages.

  • Use effective guards on augers to prevent serious injuries.

  • Develop a work health and safety plan for your business and have a plan of action in the event that an incident occurs.

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