MACHINERY manufacturers and distributors have called for a crack-down on the importation of unsafe, non-compliant equipment by individuals and outside agencies.
Industry leaders at the Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA) conference in Melbourne called on workplace authorities to do more to prevent the importation of equipment that didn’t meet Australian standards.
TMA executive director Richard Lewis said the efforts of manufacturers and suppliers to ensure their machines met Australia’s stringent occupational health and safety standards were being undermined by the importation of non-compliant gear.
He said the weakness in the current system was the low rate of checking by authorities and the readiness of farmers to unknowingly, or knowingly, acquire equipment that failed to meet safety standards.
“People can go to China and import anything they like and until it hurts someone no-one pays attention to it. That is just not right,” he said.
“Our members are putting a lot of money and effort into making sure they have products that are safe.
“Other people who are out there importing containers or buying equipment on the internet aren’t paying any attention to that. The system is all out of whack.”
Mr Lewis said he welcomed a move by authorities to place greater responsibility for safety compliance on end-users and to increase monitoring.
“The focus is now heading towards farmers having more responsibility and the workplace authorities are looking at farmers a lot more closely than they have in the past,” he said.
“I think as an industry we have done a really good job of getting safe product out there and embracing the whole issue of risk with on-farm plant and machinery but we have to get the end users to come on board and somehow distinguish between the safe product and unsafe product.”
Farm and Industrial Machinery Dealers Association Victorian chairman, Ian Goding, Melbourne, said the industry had been pushing for some time for authorities to do more to prevent the importation of sub-standard machinery.
“We have been pressing WorkCover to attack this sort of thing and they have taken on some specific requests from us to pursue some things and there have been some successful prosecutions. But it is a very slow wheel,” he said.
“WorkCover is plagued with trying to not only address the issue but take it to an achievable prosecution. It is a long, slow path.”
Mr Goding said the machinery industry had been particularly concerned about the influx of cheap, Asian-produced product into the small end of the market and the importation of used equipment that often failed to comply with Australian standards, such as tractors not having roll bars.
“We expect to see those issues followed through to the end user. There is a lot of ignorance with the end user who purchases the equipment not knowing it is highly illegal in the marketplace,” he said.