WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert warning farmers and others to be aware of the potentially fatal hazards of working in and around dams, following an incident in which a farmer died during work on a dam.
The man was undertaking repairs at the base of a dry dam, which subsequently collapsed. The 28-year-old was working alone and was found dead the next day on his farm at Gelantipy, about 50km north of Buchan, in east Gippsland.
Dams often need repairing due to a range of factors, including livestock damage; yabby damage; erosion; algal build-up; growth of unwanted vegetation, or retaining wall failure, particularly after a dam has previously been dry.
The safety alert said there are many hazards arising from working in and around dams.
“For example, many farmers will be working alone and in areas that may not have adequate phone coverage. If they get into trouble they have no way to alert someone for help,” it said.
People using powered equipment such as bulldozers to conduct clearing work, or who operate vehicles around dams, can also encounter risks with dam integrity.
There can be issues with vermin-infested dam walls and surrounding areas – a collapse might cause vehicles to bog or roll over.
Other risks arising include soft and boggy ground trapping people entering dams on foot, or trapped livestock and boggy conditions presenting unknown dangers when they are being freed.
To minimise risks working around dams, the alert said it is important to always have a means of communication such as a mobile phone or UHF radio, and ideally do not work alone.
WorkSafe Victoria subsequently recommended a number of actions:
Inspection of the environment where working, looking for and avoiding unstable ground and issues such as vermin infestation
Seeking assistance when recovering bogged equipment and/or animals
Not entering areas such as trenches that have been excavated or dug out, as walls may collapse
If working alone, regularly check in with others or have someone follow up with you
Not entering boggy or soft ground, as some surfaces that appear hard can be soft underneath the ‘crust’
Only using equipment you are competent operating and trained to use
Reducing the chance of rollover by avoiding driving over slopes and embankments