SafeWork NSW has issued a warning to farms and rural workplaces in South West NSW to be safe while working with and around grain augers after two workers suffered amputations.

The incidents occurred within two days late last month at farms at Leeton and Lake Cargelligo with SafeWork NSW initial investigations indicating that a lack of guarding and communication were key factors.

The first incident occurred on Thursday, 26 November at Lake Cargelligo while workers were preparing to harvest chick peas. SafeWork inquiries indicate that when a 45 year old male worker accessed an inspection hatch on the bottom of the harvester’s outlet auger, it became engaged, entangling the worker’s left arm in the rotating flight and causing an amputation.

The second incident occurred on Friday, 27 November at Leeton where a 52 year old male farm worker was augering grain from the rear of a truck into a grain storage shed. SafeWork inquiries indicate that after emptying the grain from the truck, the worker’s left foot has been amputated by the rotating flight on the screw auger which wasn’t guarded.

SafeWork NSW Director, Regional and Response Operations, Tony Williams said the incidents highlighted the risks of working with augers and the importance of effective guarding.

“Safety guarding is inexpensive, easy to install and reduces access to dangerous areas of a machine,” Mr Williams said.

“Grain auger guards must protect people while also allowing grain to flow.

“SafeWork NSW recommends mesh up to 100mm x 100mm apertures to enable grain to flow at a sufficient rate into the grain auger while maintaining an acceptable level of safety when used with an inner guard.

“These recent incidents at Leeton and Lake Cargelligo demonstrate how a lack of guarding can result in serious injury or death.

“Every injury at a rural workplace has an impact on the worker, their family, the farmer and the local community.

“Tragically, two workers have suffered serious injuries which our initial investigations indicate could have been prevented had effective guarding been in place.

“We want all farmers and farm workers to come home safely at the end of this harvest period and are urging all farms and rural workplaces to take steps to insure their grain augers have adequate guarding and safety systems so that no other workers are injured.”

SafeWork NSW auger safety recommendations during harvest:

  • Ensure the drive source is isolated, locked out and tagged at the power source before carrying out maintenance, repairs, installation and cleaning or before clearing a grain blockage
  • Ensure rotating screws, intake areas and belts are adequately guarded in augers
  • There should be an emergency stop fitted to all machines
  • Ensure the auger is structurally sound and stable
  • Ensure hazard warning signs are in place
  • Ensure users receive adequate training, supervision and instruction in the safe use of augers.

To find out more about guarding and auger safety or for copies of guidance material call 13 10 50 or visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au

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