The grain auger is the primary tool for conveying grain on farms despite the availability of more costly alternatives such as belt and pneumatic conveyors. Many augers are used for short periods during the year and they continue to work well for many years. As a result the majority of augers on farms are relatively old and were purchased prior to the introduction of safety requirements. In addition, many augers that were guarded when new have since had their safety guards removed.
Guarding the auger's flight, in a manner that allows free flow of grain and access for cleaning and maintenance while providing an acceptable level of safety, is difficult to achieve. Guards conforming to current standards either provide inadequate safety or a significant level of impracticality. Consequently, augers are still a significant agent of injury, and it is estimated that over 200 injuries occur in Australia each year. Auger accidents predominantly involve fingers, hands and arms, but feet and legs have also been entrapped with fatal consequences.
Over the last sixty years, the severity of mutilating auger-related injuries has been reported overseas, and recent studies have clarified the auger injury problem in several parts of the US; however, little work has been done to investigate the problem in Australia. The principal goal of this research was to clarify the auger injury problem in Australia in order to improve the safety of grain auger use.
The central activities of this thesis work consisted of
· · Preparing an analysis of auger-related injury statistics. Data were sought from workers compensation departments in all Australian States, a number of hospitals and several injury surveillance units. As not all injury events involve compensation, and others are recorded in a manner that identifies the agent of injury only as "other farm machinery", additional data were obtained via two focus group meetings consisting of farmers, suppliers and other key stakeholders.
· · Providing an indication of current legislative requirements and standards, their limitations and scope for improvement.
· · Exploring farmers' attitudes to safety and the impact of their attitudes on educational interventions and outcomes.
· · Exploring applicable safety innovations.
Analysis of data shows that male employees in the 20 to 34 age group are most at risk, with fingers, hands and arms being affected in over 65% of all cases. The operator's state of mind and attitude to safety were cited as significant risk factors. More incidents were reported during winter and towards the end of summer, with the majority of injuries occurring in the animal industries. Most incidents occurred while on duty, and usually in the early or middle periods of a working shift. However a significant number of incidents involving children, suggests that the world)lace continues to serve as a place for recreation.
Important environmental risk factors include the condition of the working surface and overhead power lines. While the number of incidents involving powerlines is small (one incident in Queensland involving two workers), the severity of injury is high and often fatal. The severity of auger-related injuries is reflected in the high average cost of claims and number of working-days lost. In Queensland, injuries involving the auger flight are three times more costly (in time and money) than the all-industries values.
Auger related risk factors include the auger's age, type and flight. Older augers are less likely to be guarded, and mobile augers are most likely to be involved in injury. The auger flight was involved in 60% to 80% of reported incidents. Strategies for improving the safety of grain augers include:
· the provision of auger specific standards for guarding
· provision of subsidies to fit guards and other innovative safety devices
· development and presentation of effective safety educational programs
· enforcement of legislative safety requirements