A serious injury to a worker in South Australia’s Mid North has prompted a warning to farmers working with portable field bins.

The worker was replacing a portable grain bin tyre on a farm near Halbury on 23 February when he was struck by the bin’s spring-loaded handle.

He was airlifted to Adelaide from Balaklava with serious injuries including a fractured skull.

SafeWork SA inspectors have attended the scene to make further inquiries.

SafeWork SA inspectors also responded to two separate incidents in September 2022 involving workers who were struck in the head and face by the spring-loaded arm that raises and lowers the wheels on portable field bins. These incidents resulted in serious facial lacerations and broken teeth.

When the workers attempted to raise the wheels on the bins, the handles, which are under spring tension, sprung back with high force striking both workers in the head and face.

There were also two similar incidents earlier in 2022.

SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director Glenn Farrell said portable field bins may appear to be fairly harmless pieces of equipment but their spring-loaded handles have caused some life threatening injuries of late.

‘These types of injuries are becoming far too common and we are determined to get the message out to educate users about the dangers associated with stored energy in spring-loaded mechanisms,’ he said.

‘Agriculture is one of the state’s most dangerous industries and these risks are further increased during and after harvest.

‘Open communication about hazards and risks can save lives and should become part of the daily routine of every farming business.’

SafeWork SA reminds business owners to ensure the wheel mechanism, and other components on portable field bins, are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements and any alterations are undertaken by a competent person.

Owners of portable field bins need to ensure that workers are adequately trained in the safe operation of the field bin’s wheel mechanism and that a safe system of work has been implemented to minimise the risk of injury.

SafeWork SA Inspectors have visited the scene of the Halbury field bin incident.

Safety tips when using lever handles

The raising and lowering mechanism is designed to utilise operator strength and may have an adjustable tensioned spring to provide additional assistance.

During the bin raising stage, as the lever is turned, it will reach a point where the weight of the bin (and spring force – if fitted) will maintain the bin in the lifted position.

The operator must position themselves out of the way of the detachable lever in case it releases or kicks back.

A locking pin must be installed into the bin axle for transportation. While this is a required action, it may place the operator directly in line with the tensioned detachable lever, should the operator lose control of the detachable lever and/or the bin moves.

Possible causes of incidents

Incidents may occur if:

  • a field bin with a spring assisted mechanism to lower or raise the bin is incorrectly handled
  • a worker is positioned directly in line with the tensioned detachable lever used to raise the field bin for transportation
  • the lever handle is not firmly secured and/or controlled to prevent movement.

Safety solutions

To reduce the risks of incidents and injuries occurring:

  • only raise or lower the field bin when empty
  • ensure the lever is firmly secured to the bin lifting mechanism or removed prior to installing the locking pin
  • never hold the lever down by standing on it
  • follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines regarding safe use
  • develop and implement safe lifting/lowering procedures (including for wheel maintenance), in consultation with workers
  • consider using alternative methods of raising the bins, such as the use of winches or hydraulic lifts
  • contact the manufacturer and enquire if a suitable modification kit is available and if so, have it fitted by a competent person.

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