Farm Equipment Recovery Safety: Preventing Farm Deaths and Protecting Your Farm
In the wake of one of the wettest and most-expensive growing seasons in living memory, Australian grain growers are increasingly concerned about getting their farm equipment bogged and how to safely recover it. Tragically, recent incidents, such as the death of 33-year-old grower James Gibson, who sustained fatal head injuries while extracting a bogged bulldozer, have highlighted the need for increased safety measures. At a workshop held at Grenfell Showgrounds, 580 grain growers gathered to learn essential tips for using the right equipment and techniques to make vehicle recovery safe and efficient. Here are some of the crucial safety tips shared during the event: Avoid Wet Areas: Do not attempt to harvest every hectare if you encounter a patch of wet ground. Wait for conditions to dry up before proceeding. Lighten Loads: Operate machinery with less grain on board to reduce weight. Regularly empty harvester grain tanks and chaser bins, and avoid filling trucks in the paddock. Remove the Front: Lighten the load by removing the front of the equipment, enabling easier recovery. Keep Trucks Out of Paddocks: Whenever possible, avoid driving trucks into paddocks. Instead, use a chaser bin to load trucks parked on hard ground around sheds or internal roads. Reverse Drive Tyres: Before trafficking a paddock, reverse one or both tyres on duals to increase traction in reverse during recovery. Reduce Tyre Pressure: Lower the bogged vehicle's tyre pressure to the lowest within the manufacturer's recommended range, but remember to increase it again for road travel. Use a Shovel: Remove mud from around the tyres to improve traction. Go Steady: When using a recovery strap, drive steadily at a recommended speed, usually between two and five kilometers per hour. Pre-Fit Wire Cables: Consider pre-fitting galvanized wire cables underneath the harvester or chaser bin for quick equipment retrieval if it becomes bogged. Refer to the Operator's Manual: Always consult the operator's manual of the bogged vehicle to identify proper attachment points for recovery straps and avoid damaging the machine. To minimize the risk to workers and others involved in vehicle and farm equipment recovery, follow these safety guidelines: Assess the work environment and conditions before starting work. Avoid using vehicles and equipment if there is a likelihood of becoming bogged. Postpone work until conditions improve. Establish an exclusion zone around the equipment during recovery, allowing only the necessary personnel inside. Use communication methods, such as voice, radio, or hand signals, for effective coordination. Never stand at either end of the tow line to avoid injury if the tow line breaks. Use only straps and attachments that are correctly rated for the weight and type of work involved. Utilize a recovery dampener to reduce the force of recoil if the recovery line breaks. Use anchor points approved by the vehicle manufacturer and listed in the operator's manual. Abort the extraction if things are not going as planned. Opt for laminated glass and external structural protection in mobile plant equipment. Ensure the use of well-maintained and approved equipment, following the manufacturer's instructions. Perform a risk assessment before attempting any equipment recovery. Have an emergency procedure plan in place. Suppliers and paramedics offer additional tips: Use a dampener to prevent straps from becoming projectiles. Avoid using chains or steel D-shackles; use soft shackles rated correctly for the vehicle's size. Regularly check the condition of all recovery equipment for cracks, tears, or rust. Remember, prioritizing safety is crucial, even in time-sensitive situations like harvesting. By following proper procedures and using the right equipment, farmers can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and protect both their lives and their farms.