PTOs can kill, warns Worksafe

20 Aug, 2003 10:00 PM
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FARMERS risk prosecution, serious injury or even death if they continue to operate machinery with unguarded power take-offs (PTOs).

WorkSafe Bunbury senior inspector Ron Jenkins said farmers were required to ensure rotating parts of PTOs were fitted with effective guards.

Injuries resulting from limbs or clothing being caught in PTOs were WorkSafe's biggest farm safety concern and it had issued a strong reminder for farmers to be vigilant.

An 18-year-old farm worker was killed last year due to an exposed PTO rotator shaft.

"Any and every farm we go to, there is a problem with PTOs," Mr Jenkins said.

WorkSafe ensures machinery manufacturers comply with safety guidelines but farmers often have old and neglected machinery without effective guards.

The conventional system of guarding PTOs used plastic covers, which caused problems with incorrect fitting, wear and breakage.

The guards were frequently removed entirely, which made the rotating shaft an exposed hazard.

If WorkSafe inspectors find unguarded PTOs, they are required to prevent further use and often prosecute the offenders.

Mr Jenkins said up to 75pc of prosecutions WorkSafe had pursued against farmers following serious injury, had involved PTOs.

"WorkSafe is not in the position of always seeking to prosecute, generally we try to educate, to save a leg or even a life," Mr Jenkins said.

WorkSafe has guidelines on how to avoid safety risks on farms.

Those relating to machinery guards include that they be durable, ventilated and correctly fitted.

They should not be removed until machinery is stopped and isolated from a power source.

PTOs should be covered with a power output guard on the tractor, a shaft cover and a power input coupling guard.

"If a farmer sticks to our recommendations he's gone a hell of a long way to ensuring safety," Mr Jenkins said.

WorkSafe will run an information display at the Dowerin Field Days, August 26 - 28, where farmers can obtain copies of the guidelines and consult farm safety experts.

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