Farm worker dies after being crushed by hay bale
A farm worker has died after being crushed by a 720 kg hay bale, according to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Queensland. Early investigations indicate the worker had been removing a strap from a front-end loader’s trailer when a hay bale became unstable and fell from the trailer onto him. However, investigations are ongoing.
Working with hay bales is common in the agricultural industry and comes with serious health and safety risks including: falls from bale stacks; falls from vehicles and machinery used to transport or stack bales; trips and falls over loose bale string; fires; dust exposure — leading to respiratory diseases and infections; and lifting and carrying injuries, WHS Queensland warned.
Workers and bystanders are also at risk of being struck by bales that fall or collapse while loading or unloading trucks or trailers. This can occur if: bales have moved, compressed or collapsed during transit; and are stacked incorrectly or are not secured by appropriate ropes, lashings or methods. However, it can also happen if workers have not been trained to load or unload bales safely or the bale handling equipment was not properly designed, constructed or maintained.
WHS Queensland advised that workers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) should complete a risk management process and implement safe work systems before working with any hay bales to prevent similar incidents. Once the risks have been assessed, PCBUs need to implement control measures to eliminate, or where not reasonably practicable minimise, these risks, according to the hierarchy of control.
For example, where work practices involving loading or unloading hay bales cannot be eliminated, PCBUs should substitute the loading system for a safer one. Here, PCBUs might replace manual handling with specifically designed bale handling equipment. Mobile plants and handling equipment may need to be modified to ensure they are suitable for the task; however, plants and attachments must only be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Self-levelling front-end loader attachments and backboards can prevent bales falling on the operator.
Workers and PCBUs can also implement administrative controls. These include where: bales are never strapped or unstrapped while a trailer is being loaded or unloaded; a load or unload sequence is devised to prevent the load becoming unstable and occurs on ground level to reduce the risk of bale dislodgement or vehicle tip-over; and people loading and unloading hay bales are trained, competent, correctly supervised and ensure they always stand clear of the trailer where the loader driver can see them.
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