Take care with dams

By Country News

Farmers and earthmoving contractors are being warned to be safe around dams following two incidents last month, including a fatality.

Victoria has about 450000 dams, many of which are on farms and private properties and have been significantly impacted by a lack of rainfall this year.

The conditions mean dry dams are prone to collapse, particularly when digging or using machinery in or around them.

The Victorian Government has put out the safety call after a man in his 20s died last month after being buried at the base of a dry dam on his East Gippsland property.

WorkSafe believes the man was excavating a trench at the base of the dam when it collapsed.

In another incident, a farmer in his 70s was injured after his tractor rolled while he was working on a dam at Mt Moriac, west of Geelong, on April 27.

Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said it was important care was taken in the workplace.

‘‘We’ve already lost 11 Victorians to workplace incidents this year. We need employers and workers to take safety seriously so more families don’t have to experience the heartbreak of losing a loved one,’’ Ms Hennessy said.

‘‘Safety around dams is so important, even surfaces that look hard can be soft underneath and may give way under the weight of machinery, causing it to tip or roll.’’

To reduce the risks associated with working around dry dams, WorkSafe recommends farmers and contractors inspect the environment and identify unstable ground before commencing work, only use equipment they are competent with and only use it within its operating range, and avoid driving machinery over slopes and embankments to reduce the risk of a roll-over.

Other tips include: ensuring a hard stand area for excavators is stable and not undermined by vermin; seeking assistance when recovering bogged equipment and/or animals; and ensuring farm workers have access to a means of communication, either a phone or radio and avoid working alone, and have others check in on them.

WorkSafe’s health and safety executive director Julie Nielsen said safety became even more important as maintenance and repairs were increasingly being carried out.

‘‘Farmers and contractors often use dry periods to carry out maintenance and repairs on dams, but they still need to consider safety before they commence work — even much-needed rain won’t reduce the risk,’’ Ms Nielsen said.

‘‘The fact that farmers and contractors often work alone in areas that have poor mobile phone coverage compounds this risk.’’