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Shared responsibilities in shearing in time of COVID-19

Sheep and wool production health and safety responsibilities in shearing sheds must be shared between farmers and contractors.

With shearing across the country continuing in autumn or gearing up to start in a few months, SafeWork NSW has a free guide to help the industry work safe. The guide has practical tips on targeting safety risks and fostering better communication between farmers and contractors—an important factor in mitigating the risks of COVID-19—especially when agricultural workers work, eat, and sometimes live in close proximity to each other.

In practical terms, the guide suggests:

  • the shearing shed has a safe way of entering and exiting
  • the shearing shed, surrounding infrastructure and shearing operations are without risks to the health and safety of any person, especially during shearing. For example:
    • yards, races, gates, catch pens and doors are in good condition
    • ventilation and lighting are adequate
    • sheep drag paths are as straight as possible.
    • shearers use stands that match their right or left-hand shearing technique
    • let-go chutes have cut-away to aid letting go
    • an earth leakage device is fitted to the shed and regularly tested
    • emergency stop devices are fitted and regularly tested
    • amenities - toilets, wash and dining areas - are available and clean
    • fresh, clean drinking water is available
    • an emergency response plan and first-aid kit are in place and checked
    • zoonotic disease controls are in place, including Q-fever screening and vaccination
    • chemical use on sheep is managed to prevent contamination risks.
  • the fixtures, fittings and plant are without risks to health and safety, for example:
    • overhead gear is guarded in line with Australian standards or decommissioned in lieu of electric plant, preferably including anti-lock technology
    • wool presses are fitted with a safety bar and emergency stop button
    • grinders are guarded
    • secure back harness suspension points are incorporated into the shed
    • noise risks are controlled.

Further information

More information is at www.safework.nsw.gov.au/