A crush injury occurs when the body or a body part is trapped, pinched or jammed under or between objects. The pressure can harm skin, muscles, nerves or bone, depending on the degree of force. On Victorian farms, the most commonly injured body parts are the hands and fingers.
A crush injury occurs when the body or a body part is trapped, pinched or jammed under or between objects. The pressure can harm skin, muscles, nerves or bone, depending on the degree of force. Traumatic amputation occurs if enough force is applied. On Victorian farms, the most commonly injured body parts are the hands and fingers.
Most injuries occur during cropping or farm maintenance in workshops. While anyone of any age who works, visits or lives on a farm may get injured, older people and inexperienced people are at increased risk. For example, the effects of ageing – such as slower reaction times, poor eyesight and reduced strength and agility – make injuries such as crush injuries more likely.
You can reduce the risk of crush injuries at your farm. Simple safety measures can dramatically reduce the danger to yourself, your family and other farm workers.
Some of the causes of crush injuries on farms include:
- Vehicle roll-over – for example, the tractor or all terrain vehicle (quad bike, ATV or ag bike) hits an obstacle or fails to negotiate a slope. Roll-overs can pin the driver underneath and may cause serious injury or death.
- Vehicle run-over – an example of this is a tractor carrying two people, where one slips from the vehicle and is crushed beneath the rear wheel.
- Machinery such as grain augers – for example, fingers, hands and arms may be pulled into the moving parts.
- Impact with livestock – for example, cattle may crush a farmer against the stockyard rails.
Tractors cause around 11 per cent of workplace deaths in Victoria. Human error is a major factor. Studies of tractor accidents show that, in most cases, at least one person performed an action that led directly to the injury or death. Safety suggestions include:
- Make sure your tractor conforms to current Australian Safety Standards.
- Buy a tractor with safety features such as a seatbelt, reversing beepers and dead man’s seat brake (also known as an operator presence sensing system or OPSS). An OPSS turns power sources off and brakes the tractor when the operator leaves the seat with the engine on and the tractor in gear.
- Install a certified roll-over protective structure (ROPS) if your tractor does not have an enclosed cabin.
- Keep the tractor properly maintained and check it regularly.
- Make sure that children and visitors are kept well away from the tractor when it is operational.
- Only start the tractor when you are safely seated. Deaths have occurred when farm workers start the tractor from outside the vehicle.
- Always wear the seatbelt.
- Ban passengers if the tractor does not have a purpose-built seat with a seatbelt. Passengers riding on the mudguard may fall and get crushed by the rear wheel.
- Do not leave the motor running when you are off the tractor making adjustments.
- To avoid crush injuries to the hands, be particularly careful when adding attachments to the tractor and follow all recommended safety precautions.
All terrain vehicles (ATVs and quad bikes)
The all terrain vehicle (ATV) is the number one cause of death on Victorian farms. ATVs are also known as quad bikes or ag bikes. Most injuries and deaths involve the bike rolling over the rider. Safety suggestions include:
- Take an ATV training course.
- Use the ATV strictly as instructed by the operator’s manual.
- Only ride on familiar and even tracks.
General safety suggestions for machinery
Injuries can occur at any time when using machinery. Most injuries involve crush injury or amputation of the fingers or hands. General safety suggestions for machinery include:
- Read the manual and pay particular attention to the safety instructions.
- Make sure that all workers on a particular piece of equipment understand how to operate it safely.
- Don’t remove or modify safety features. Lack of safety guards is a major factor in crush injuries. If necessary, fit safety shields to cover all moving parts such as belts and pulleys.
- Regularly maintain and check your machinery. Accidents, including crush injuries, are more common if the equipment is old. You may need to buy new machinery.
- Make sure that clothes such as sleeves and pant legs are not loose or flapping and cannot get caught in the moving parts of a machine. Hair should also be tied up.
- Fit safety signs.
- Do not take shortcuts. For example, take the time to switch off machinery before you make any adjustments.
- Avoid working alone. If this isn’t possible, then tell someone when to expect you so they can come looking for you if necessary. Make this a safety rule for everyone who works on the farm.
Safety suggestions for grain augers include:
- Do not remove the flight intake guard. While removing it may improve the flow of grain, it dramatically increases the risk of crush injuries.
- Use the grain auger strictly as directed. Inappropriate use increases your risk of harm.
- Make sure the emergency stop is near the grain auger inlet.
A common type of crush injury from livestock occurs when a body part, such as an arm, gets pinned between an animal and a fence. The bigger the animal, the greater the risk of injury. Safety suggestions include:
- Do not work alone.
- Ensure the animals know you are approaching.
- Minimise the time you spend in the same enclosure as farm animals.
- Be aware that frightened mothers will protect their young if they perceive a threat. For example, alarmed cows may charge.
- Always use appropriate equipment. For example, use bail heads and crushes.
- If you need to yard stock during mating, use separate yards for bulls wherever possible.
- Install a vet gate into your cattle crush to make getting in and out safer.
Draw up an emergency plan
- Ensure easy access to a suitable and well-stocked first aid kit. Place various first aid kits around the farm.
- Ensure that at least one person is trained in first aid.
- Keep emergency contact numbers and a copy of your correct (official) address next to the telephone.
- Plan routes to the nearest emergency department.
- Talk through your emergency plan with your family, other farm staff and visitors.
- Make sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
Where to get help
- In an emergency, call triple zero (000) – an operator can talk you through what to do until medical help arrives
- Your doctor
- Nurse-on-Call 1300 60 60 24 (Victoria) (24 hours, 7 days)
- National Centre for Farmer Health Tel. (03) 5551 8533
- WorkSafe Victoria Tel. (03) 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089 (toll free) - for general enquiries
- WorkSafe Victoria Emergency Response Line Tel. 13 23 60 - to report serious workplace emergencies, seven days, 24 hours
- Victorian Farm Safety Centre Tel. (03) 5334 3717
- Department of Primary Industries Tel. 136 186
- Australian Government Regional Information Service Tel. 1800 026 222
- Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety Tel. (02) 6752 8210
- Farmsafe Australia Tel. (02) 6752 8218
Things to remember
- A crush injury occurs when the body or body part is trapped, pinched or jammed between objects.
- On Victorian farms, the most commonly injured body parts are the hands and fingers.
- Simple safety measures can dramatically reduce the risk of crush injuries to yourself, your family and other farm workers.
- A health and safety officer from the WorkSafe Victoria can offer information and advice on how to improve safety practices on your farm.
You might also be interested in:
- Farm safety - confined spaces.
- Farm safety - handling animals.
- Farm safety - machinery.
- Farm safety - manual handling.
- Farm safety - quad bikes.
- Farm safety - risks and hazards.
Want to know more?
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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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National Centre for Farmer Health
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: May 2011
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