Make safety a priority in the shearing shed: SafeWork NSW

Media Release | 17/04/2020

SafeWork NSW has urged farmers and sheep shearers to review shearing shed safety following an incident in November 2017 where a 20-year-old female suffered serious head injuries at Gulargambone.

SafeWork NSW is investigating the incident which occurred at a shearing shed on a rural property on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 when thefemalevisitor’s hair became caught in the drive shaft of overhead shearing equipment and caused serious head injuries.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident highlighted the dangers in shearing sheds and that, despite recent progress, there was still room for improvement in the industry.

“Sheep shearing can be dangerous work with many physical, chemical and biological hazards,” Mr Dunphy said.

“Farmers need to carefully plan work, have safe work practices in place and provide adequate training to prevent injuries to workers and visitors.

“Unfortunately, with 349 shearers injured in the three years to July 2016, it’s clear that this isn’t occurring as well as it could.

“Once injured, shearers also take twice as long to get back to work as others due to the seriousness of their injures, so it’s critical that everyone in the shearing industry works together to improve safety.

“That’s why SafeWork NSW is implementing an Agriculture Work Health and Safety Sector Plan.

“The Plan aims to deliver safer agricultural workplaces through simple, practical, and affordable strategies, and focuses on a number of issues affecting the sheep shearing industry, including musculoskeletal injuries, mental health, isolation and disease.”

SafeWork NSW’s sheep shearing safety tips:

  • Ensure guards are on all shearing machinery.
  • Space your workers out to avoid clashing of downtubes.
  • Use electric motors on wool presses to reduce noise.
  • Regularly maintain all equipment and have safety equipment in place.
  • Make sure that emergency stop buttons can be easily reached.
  • Keep all walkways clear
  • Make sure catching pen floors are dry and non-slip
  • Maintain good posture and use your legs instead of your back when moving sheep
  • Keep other workers, children and dogs out of the shed
  • Have an accessible first aid kit.
  • Regularly check and maintain firefighting equipment
  • Train new workers and visitors in shearing shed safety.

Mr Dunphy said pre-planning, preparation and consultation were critical to preventing injuries in the shearing shed.

“Shearers and farmers should undertake a pre-shear shed inspection to identify safety issues and ensure they are addressed before shearing commences,” he said.

“A workplace injury can have a devastating effect on a shearer, their family and community, so it’s in everyone’s interest to make safety a priority in the shearing shed.”

SafeWork NSW’s Small Business Rebate Program offers rebates of up to $500 to farmers who make safety improvements to the shearing shed such as replacing old gear with new electric plant or installing guarding on overhead gear to eliminate entanglement risks.

Get more information on shearing safety and the Small Business Rebate Program.

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