Best Practice Guidelines for Ground-spread Fertiliser in New Zealand
Section 2: General Safety
Working within the ground-spread fertiliser industry exposes workers to a number of potentially very serious hazards. Not only are high volumes of potentially harmful fertilisers involved, workers are often working alone and in a vast range of environmental conditions.
These and other factors heighten the need for comprehensive operator training and job planning.
Operator training and safety
Employers need to ensure that staff are adequately trained to complete their work. Given the nature of this industry, in most cases this requires staff to be trained to a level where they can work unsupervised. It is recommended that employers keep a training register for employees to enable the identification of both strengths and areas that need improvement.
Only a competent person should operate the trucks and /or machinery. Operators should hold the appropriate class of license for the vehicle being operated or equivalent unit standards.
Under the HSE Act, among an employer's responsibilities is the need to provide training, protective personal equipment (PPE) and a safe working environment.
In return, employees are required to work in such a way as to ensure their safety and the safety of others. They must follow all health and safety policies and procedures and must wear any PPE provided. One way to ensure expectations are clear is to have a 'code of conduct': an example is provided below.
Code of conduct for ground spreading
- Always observe the required safety precautions and procedures set out in safety manuals and guides.
- Always comply with the laws, regulations and codes of practice that govern the industry.
- Always carry out regular checks of all identified hazards and constantly look out for new hazards.
- Once hazards are identified, ensure there are adequate controls in place. If the hazard cannot be eliminated, then it should be recorded on the hazard register and your supervisor must be informed.
- Always report any accident or near miss.
- Never use any substance or compound unless you know how to handle it and the risks associated. If in doubt wear gloves.
- Always wear or use any safety gear that is provided.
- Never remove any safety device or guard.
- Always operate and maintain vehicles and machinery in a safe and correct manner.
- Always be aware of the movement of people and vehicles around you when you are working.
- Never work when affected by alcohol or drugs. If you have been prescribed medication, ask your doctor about any effects it might have on your ability to work safely.
- Conduct yourself in a professional manner.
- Know the emergency procedures and let someone know where you will be, especially when working alone.
Fatigue, stress and health issues
Due to the nature of the industry, long days are often taken for granted. However, it is important that both employers and employees take the issues surrounding fatigue seriously and know how to manage it.
Fatigue and state of health have a major effect on the ability to concentrate and make rational decisions. People who are tired make mistakes, have lower productivity and are prone to more serious accidents. Fatigue is often an underrated hazard, and it is critical that employers and employees understand how to mange it.
Log book regulations are designed to reduce the chance of a driver having accidents due to fatigue. However there are a number of external factors that may also influence fatigue. These include stress (both at home and in the workplace), lack of sleep, being overworked, some medications, alcohol and other drugs as well as general health.
The HSE Act requires that 'all practicable steps' are taken to identify, control and monitor all hazards. The 'control hierarchy' requires that hazards must be eliminated, isolated or minimised (in that order). Both elimination and isolation control the hazard, while minimisation only protects the individual, the person who was trained, who read the sign, who is wearing the PPE etc.
Below are some guidelines to help manage fatigue in the workplace. However, as it is likely that there are other factors contributing to the fatigue, both employers and employees should assess fatigue on an individual basis.
Drivers must have:
- A 10 hour break in any 24 hour period.
- A half hour break after every 5.5 hours of on-duty time.
- A 24 hour break after 70 hours on duty.
- A maximum of 13 hours on duty in any work period.
The Employment Relations Act (ER) contains provisions about working conditions and should be referred to for further details.
Other health issues
Every day operators work with potentially harmful substances. Ensure that gloves are used at all times, and because you may have traces of fertilisers on your hands ensure that you wash them thoroughly before eating food or putting your hand near your face and eyes.
Always carry enough fluids to prevent dehydration during the day. Dehydration reduces your ability to focus and make judgements. The use of alcohol and drugs can also adversely affect you. Operators work with heavy machinery and high volumes of fertiliser so It is important to monitor health issues and your employer can work with you regarding these. Depending on your role health monitoring may include sight and hearing checks, and monitoring of exposure to certain substances.