Court case will create ripple effect: TMA

27 Oct, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA) executive director Vin Delahunty said his organisation had formed a coalition of parties involving dealers, farmers, contractors and manufacturers and had met with NSW WorkCover to put

industry¹s side of the argument.

³So far we haven¹t had much success in getting them to see our viewpoint but we¹ll keep at it,² he said.

Mr Delahunty said that in general most states adopted a balanced approach to OHS enforcement but the ramifications of the current court case - in which NSW WorkCover was prosecuting a major US-based combine harvester manufacturer and one of its Australian dealers over alleged faulty design of the combine harvester - would be felt throughout Australia.

³We already have dealt with cases where prosecutions have crossed state boundaries so the writing is on the wall if this case is successfully prosecuted,² he said.

WA WorkSafe senior inspector Peter Rohan said that state OHS regulations stipulated that liability for injuries associated with machinery design rested with the distributors.

³But there are responsibilities for farm safety that also rest with the employer and employee,² he said.

³For example, a farmer must ensure his employee reads the operator¹s manual for a particular machine the employee will operate and ensure he has told the employee all relevant safety issues concerned with the working environment.

³There should be no assumptions by farmers that employees will read an operator¹s manual because in my experience I have come across a lot of farm employees who are not literate.

³So a farmer must ensure he has given the employee sufficient instruction on the task to be done.²

Bunbury manufacturer Sandro Agrizzi said because of threatened liability, he was holding mowers he had bought from an overseas manufacturer.

³I can¹t sell them because they supposedly do not meet required safety standards in WA so I¹m waiting to hear from WorkSafe to get them to tell me exactly how I should make them safer,² he said. ³We¹ve made the required changes to our slashers.²

WorkSafe WA has issued an improvement notice to known suppliers of rotary slashers identifying the need for guarding at the front and rear of the machines to protect people from making contact with debris ejected or the cutting blade during the cutting process.

WA Regional Manufacturers president Peter Nunn said OHS regulations were frustrating the farm mechanisation industry.

³We have a good rapport with WorkSafe WA and we have input on committees but things are moving too slow on getting changes to legislation regarding the chain of responsibilities,² he said.

³There are a lot of areas of concern including the definition that if you import machines you are deemed to be the manufacturer and therefore liable in a prosecution case.

³The other big area is second hand machinery.

³If a farmer identifies a risk and makes a guard for the machine he is then deemed as the manufacturer.

³If he sells the machine at a clearing sale he still carries accountability for that machine.

³And what about all the second hand machines built 20 years ago that were not designed to meet today¹s safety standards yet are still operating?

³The whole thing is a minefield.²

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