Growers encouraged to ask ‘how well do you Know Your Code?’

Oct 18, 2018

Grain Producers SA is calling on grain growers across the state to ask themselves how well they know the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice ahead of the 2018-19 harvest.

In 2016, GPSA and the Country Fire Service launched the successful Know Your Code campaign which encouraged growers to abide by the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice, a voluntary code which outlines the conditions under which grain harvesting and handling should occur in the paddock.

The code states that growers need to:

  • Comply with the two legislated requirements of the code:
    • When using a stationary engine to auger grain, a person who is able to control the engine must be present when it is in use, or an area of at least 4m around must be cleared.
    • It is legislated that producers must carry a shovel or rake, portable water spray, and ensure engine and exhaust systems comply with regulations.
  • Monitor weather conditions and forecasts to stop harvest when the local actual Grassland Fire Danger Index (GFDI) exceeds 35.
  • Remove crop residues on machines.
  • Regularly maintain machinery before and during harvest, particularly wearing parts and bearings, and keep maintenance records.
  • Reduce build‐up of static electricity on machinery during harvest.
  • Have a well-maintained farm fire‐fighting unit with a minimum of 250 litres of water in the same paddock.
  • Establish fire breaks around paddocks or across the property.
  • Ensure all farm staff are bushfire ready with the correct fire‐fighting clothing and equipment and that there is a fire prevention and emergency response strategy in place.
  • Have immediate access to a UHF CB radio or mobile phone to report emergencies.

The Know Your Code campaign encourages growers to take five simple steps to help reduce the risk of harvester fires: 1. Preparation, 2. Maintenance, 3. Monitoring, 4. Safe operations and 5. Communication.

GPSA chief executive officer Caroline Rhodes says the CFS has advised that incident data since the code was released nearly a decade ago shows a reduction in the number of harvest-related fires and consequently a reduction in farming losses and risk to the community.

“While the code is voluntary, we are seeing growers using and referencing it and we are strongly encouraging that practice to continue this harvest,” she said.

“SA growers have become more proactive in monitoring conditions, making sound decisions for when they should cease harvesting in line with the code.

“Many growers are investing in technology to further reduce risks, increase efficiency and record conditions. There are many positives in growers’ current approach to harvester fire management and that helps GPSA to advocate on growers’ behalf when we are being responsible as an industry.”

The code was developed about 10 years ago when the original MacArthur MK4 Grass Fire Danger Index was adapted for grain growing in South Australia. Harvest codes have since been adopted in Victoria and parts of New South Wales.

The GFDI is a mathematical relationship between air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed and impacted by the curing factor, or greenness, of vegetation. It means a fire in conditions where the GFDI is 35 or above is unlikely to be controlled by a harvest operator's fire-fighting resources.

The GFDI is designed to be determined in the paddock and used in conjunction with other fire risk management measures, as outlined in the code. The code covers areas such as fire prevention, requirements for firefighting facilities to contain and extinguish a fire if it starts, and also conditions that harvest operations should cease (GFDI calculation).

When it comes to measuring the GFDI in real-time in the paddock, CFS and GPSA are encouraging growers to at least use a hand-held weather meter to measure wind speed and local conditions, or preferably a fixed or portable weather station, together with the Code of Practice and its Grain Harvesting Operations Table.

Ms Rhodes says the code has worked well in SA to reduce the incidence and severity of harvest fires, while enabling harvest operations, even on ban days.

“It allows for different weather conditions that occur at a local level as opposed to council or fire district,” she said.

GPSA Director and Hamley Bridge grower Adrian McCabe says he follows the code as best practice, citing it as an easy-to-understand guide as to when harvesting should cease.

“Even grain transporters and local receival sites are using the code as a guide for when to shut down on days of high fire danger,” he said.

“We use a hand-held weather meter as well as data from three local weather stations at Mallala, Salter Springs and Hamley Bridge to help us calculate the GFDI.

“If it’s a day where we think the GFDI will be well-exceeded then we will finish early. For example, if the index is at 30 but the GFDI reading on the weather station is trending upwards sharply and will exceed 35 then conditions are clearly dangerous and we will shut down.

“If the day is less extreme and there is a forecast cool change for the afternoon then we will keep harvesting until the index reaches 35.”

 

Details

For media interviews contact Alistair Lawson, AgCommunicators, on 0448 400 606.

More information including a poster showcasing five steps to reduce harvester fire risk is available at grainproducerssa.com.au/KnowYourCode


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