Field day hitches recovery safety to front of mind

Liz Wells, September 28, 2022

Those attending the 2022 Iandra Castle Spring Field Walk got an insight into machinery recovery from Unilift. Photo: John Kirkegaard

ATTENDEES at a field day held yesterday at Greenethorpe’s Iandra Castle got an insight into how machinery can be recovered safely and effectively in what is shaping up to be a big and boggy New South Wales harvest.

Courtesy of a demonstration from Orange-based business Unilift, they saw how modern equipment as used in the highly-regulated mining industry can be used on the farm as a safer alternative to chains, wire ropes and brittle shackles and anchoring points.

Iandra Castle is an important part of a CSIRO-led farming systems research project, and is also part of a working farm and community.

In June, that community suffered the loss of a young man when a shackle broke while a bogged bulldozer was being pulled out at nearby Monteagle.

Safety in farmers’ hands

While yesterday’s Spring Field Walk at Iandra principally covered topics related to agronomy, the recovery demonstration was added when organisers including Greenethorpe farmer Warwick Hodges realised it was an opportunity to throw some light on this often overlooked aspect of farm safety.

“We’re a self-regulated industry, and we haven’t got any official guidelines when we’re recovering machinery on the farm,” Mr Hodges said.

“Some of these headers weigh 20 tonnes unloaded, and when they’re being pulled out with tractors of 500-600 horsepower, a lot can go wrong.”

Wet conditions since last year have meant many growers and contractors have been bogged multiple times already, and the prevailing La Niña means the muddy run looks set to continue.

Iandra Pastoral Estate principal Rod Kershaw  and Mr Hodges saw yesterday’s field day as an opportunity to encourage the 50 or so growers in attendance to think about safety while recovering machinery ahead of harvest 2022 and not during it.

“The Unilift boys said their products are expensive, but it’s possibly the cost of 4 tonnes of urea; that’s not expensive if you can save a life or prevent an injury.”

Mr Hodges said the Unilift presentation has already prompted discussion among growers straight after the demonstration.

“They were all chewing the fat about what they were going to do, and how they were going to do it better.”

Protection from projectiles

Yesterday’s demonstration was Unilift’s first in front of a farming audience, and presenting it was Caleb Scott, whose family founded the business at Orange in 2001, and sales consultant Dom Thrush.

“We went out there to show them a bit of the gear they could use as an alternative to chains and wire rope, because if they break, or the shackles break, they can turn into a projectile,” Mr Thrush said.

The scenario is a regular cause of injury or death on Australian farms, and Unilift was promoting the Australian-made 20-metre Black Snake Strop it distributes as one for growers to consider.

Made of nylon, it stretches up to 20 per cent, can be used to pull out units weighing up to 50 tonnes, and sells for around $2600.

While Unilift specialises in wire ropes and lifting gear used in construction and mining, Mr Thrush said it also provides equipment for smaller applications like four-wheel driving.

He said Unilift was pleased to be asked to Iandra to talk about how lighter equipment made of modern materials, including soft shackles, can improve safety in agriculture.

“The more you are prepared for a situation, the better it will be when you get into that situation; accidents are more likely to happen when you’re not prepared.”

Mr Thrush has worked in grain haulage, and said checking machinery-recovery equipment for cracks, damage and wear was important ahead of use, but did not always happen when users where in pressure situations.

“When you’re harvesting, every minute counts, so you want to have all your equipment ready and safe to use when you need it, and be sure you’re using the right recovery points.”


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