Non-profit, non-government membership organization Farmsafe West Australia has issued a detailed advisory on best-practice shearing. The group says shearing hazards generally involve machinery, electrical fittings, sheep yard design, slippery and obstructed floors, sharp tools, equipment and protrusions, chemicals, heat stress and strain injuries from repetitive, awkward and strenuous work.
They recommend sheep producers conduct a safety audit of shearing sheds, pens, flooring, machinery, wool presses, electrical fittings, connections and cables, lighting, ventilation, and the experience and safety training of those involved, particularly young workers.
Next, assess hazards for likeliness to cause injury or harm and consider safeguards and safer procedures, assessing these for other possible hazards before deciding a plan of action.
Many safety innovations have been developed that reduce shearing injuries.
Farmsafe suggests the following actions to help farmers to minimize risks:
Design steps, ramps, pens, entrances, flooring, gates and latches to minimize risk of trip injuries and strain to shearers and helpers.
Make sure sheds are well lit and ventilated; cool in summer and draft free in winter.
Keep a suitably equipped first aid box in the shearing shed.
Have suitable, functional fire-fighting equipment available in shearing sheds and quarters.
Keep shearing machinery safely guarded to prevent catching limbs, clothing or fleeces.
Place stopping mechanisms within easy reach in case of emergency.
Ensure safe distances between shearing positions, to prevent the risk of down tubes clashing and creating cut hazards.
Keep handpieces well maintained to eliminate vibration injuries.
Choose quiet machinery or isolate noisy machinery to prevent hearing damage.
Choose wool presses designed not to trap workers’ hands.
Consider electric motor wool presses to cut noise and air pollution.
Provide back support harnesses and equipment for shearers.
Install a slipping clutch (safety clutch) to prevent handpiece lock-up.
Clean shearing floors and clear passageways of obstructions.
Ensure floors in catch pens are kept clean and dry to reduce slip hazards. Battens running parallel to the drag are recommended in catch pens.
Let sheep “empty out” and settle downbefore moving them into the shedat least eight hours prior to shearing.
Keep shed hands clear of shearers unless they need to be there, or are called on for assistance.
Keep dogs out of the working area, and don’t tie them up where people can trip over them.
Minimize the distance necessary to drag sheep to 10 feet or less.
Eliminate right angle turns during dragging of sheep.
Fitness and Health
Shearers and rural workers should exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet to guard against injury and maintain required energy levels.
In hot weather, take regular drinks of cool water or non-alcohol fluids to avoid heat stress.
Maintain a good posture during physical work, and use legs to lift, not the back.
Prior to each two-hour shearing run, conduct warm up exercises as most injuries occur during the first few hours of shearing or when returning from extended break.
During extended lay-off periods ensure a gradual return to shearing.