Elevated work platforms can be used for so many things for many things on a farm. Like all industries, agricultural operations need to pay a great deal of attention to safe practices when using access equipment.
Lifts can be used to harvest fruit, lay irrigation pipe, inspect silos, storage bins or other buildings, maintain windmills, load forage or wool bales, and many other tasks. Because of the huge range of possible employment, the conditions under which elevated work platforms are used are huge. They may be set on barn floors, moved down a path between orchard plants, or used in an area with an abundance of overhead wires. In addition, farmers often work alone, and they can be a long way from help if an accident occurs.
Farming is one of Australia’s most dangerous professions
A study done by SafeWork Australia shows 356 workers died on farms in Australia in the eight years between 2003 and 2011; 71% of those accidents involved vehicles. Injury claims are even higher, amounting to well over 10,000 accidents a year. Most accidents involving EWPs were caused by using the equipment improperly, using it over rough ground, or not taking on-site precautions such as establishing a “bin lift point” when overhead wires were present.
Boom lifts are not the right piece of equipment to lift heavy loads, but they are often found carting or loading large hay bales or wool bales. Too much weight on the end of the boom can cause it to tip or roll back. Forklifts or telehandlers should be used in these situations rather than boom lifts, knuckle booms or vertical lifts.
Too many shortcuts
Because farmers often work by themselves, they sometimes do not take the precaution of wearing an arrest system that will prevent injury if they are thrown from a work platform. This can easily happen, especially if a lift is used for harvesting produce. It is common, for example, for bananas to be harvested and bagged using a solo-operated EWP. These machines are usually in motion, with the operator on the platform. If an unforeseen dip in the ground is present, the worker can easily be catapulted from the platform.
Sometimes, equipment is used for purposes that are just bizarre. A farmer was killed in 2011 when he was using a boom lift to bang an irrigation pipe on the ground in an attempt to clear a nest of vermin from the pipe. On the upswing, the irrigation pipe hit an overhead wire, electrocuting him (and presumably the vermin).
Get training and use it
The best way to prevent farm accidents is by taking lift operator training, taking the EWP safety course and never taking shortcuts. If you’re thinking of taking advantage of the access equipment hire offered by Force for agricultural work, and you have not had the training you need to safely operate the equipment, then don’t worry. We’ve got training available at each of our many locations, and it’s easy to take advantage of.