FARMERS have been urged to comply with a recommendation by State Coroner Alastair Hope to check thei

24 Apr, 2007 08:45 PM
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His recommendations were included in a coronial report released recently on the death of a Mukinbudin farm worker in 2003, who was pinned under a silo when it suddenly collapsed.

The worker was taken to a Perth hospital but subsequently died on injuries sustained when he fell from the top of the silo as it collapsed.

Mr Hope returned a finding of death by accident concluding that the silo had collapsed because corrosion has weakened its structural integrity.

He also said the 40-year-old silo, which had been converted from a flat base to a cone base, had been designed without appropriate engineering input and calculations had not been made as to the maximum load in tonnes it could bear.

The issue has placed a spotlight on more than 30,000 silos on WA farms.

WorkSafe chief inspector Chris Kirwin said it would be impossible for WorkSafe to check every silo.

³We can¹t physically check all silos,² Mr Kirwin said.

³We will, however, be looking at on-farm storage issues during our broadacre farming program.²

Mr Kirwin urged farmers to carefully check their silos for any signs of rust or wear.

³The silo that collapsed at Mukinbudin had been painted white to reflect heat but it also masked the rust,² he said.

³So it is important farmers make careful inspections of silos to ensure they are in good order.²

WA silo manufacturers defended their products saying they had no option but to comply with Australian standards because of WorkSafe inspections.

Moylan Silos principal Mike Moylan said farmers with aging flat bottom silos should be aware of the risks of converting to cone bottom models and should speak with the manufacturer about their requirements.

³We can design for the customers and maintain the integrity of all load bearing points,² Mr Moylan said.

³But as soon as you start mucking around making alterations to any silos you¹ve got to be aware you might be reducing load-bearing capacities.²

This particularly applied to leg spacings on structures supporting cone-shaped silos.

³Farmers with wide hoppers want bigger spacings between the legs to get under the silo but it¹s not a matter of cutting a leg off to make more room,² Mr Moylan said.

³That¹s why it¹s important to talk with manufacturers.²

DE Engineers manager Kevin Prater said farmers should be very aware of rust because it ate away the strength of the material.

³Check for signs of rust and you can save a life,² Mr Prater said.

³Farmers need to remember they have a duty of care on their farms and I would recommend they document every silo inspection, including observations or work carried out.²

Mr Kirwin agreed that documentation was good business practice and should be a matter of course for farmers.

³If there has been a silo accident, the first question we ask is when was the silo last inspected,² he said.

Popanyinning silo manufacturer Don Bird said the issue highlighted grey areas relating mainly to engineering competence.

³A lot of engineers don¹t know anything about the stressors on a silo,² Mr Bird said.

³So you¹ve got to be careful who you get to test for or even design silos with structural integrity.

³The other big issue is the number of old silos being used and who designates competence on the person doing the inspection.²

³I would suggest to farmers that before they buy a silo they tell a manufacturer the purpose for which it is to be used to ensure they stay within safe tolerances when they store product on farm.²

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