WithTheGrain: Know your code before entering the paddock this harvest

Author: | Date: 15 Oct 2018

Industry bodies and fire authorities are encouraging growers to know the details of their voluntary harvest code of practice to ensure fire safety across South Australia and Victoria.

Paddock activities involving harvester operation and vehicles and machinery involved in the handling and transport of grain – such as grain dryers and augers – are highlighted as fire danger risks in the grain harvesting codes.

SA’s Grain Harvesting Code of Practice and Vic’s Voluntary Grain Harvesting Guide exist as voluntary codes advocated by the Country Fire Service (CFS) and Grain Producers SA (GPSA) in SA and the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria.

The codes include a number of specific legislative and required practices for growers as well as recommended practices which can be employed to reduce the risk of fire.

Both sets of guidelines use the MK4 Grassland Fire Danger Index (GFDI) adapted for grain growing. This is the 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 grower’s own fire‐fighting resources.

Grain Producers SA's Shane Gale

Representatives from the endorsing bodies, including GPSA policy officer Shane Gale and VFF grains manager Alister Boyd, have been presenting on the topic of fire risk management and their relevant codes of practice in a series of GRDC Harvester Fire Workshops being held across SA and Victoria this month.

Mr Gale says the code, combined with communication between growers in each district, is working well in SA.

“With growers following the code as best practice, the CFS has advised that we are seeing a reduction in harvester fires, while still enabling harvesting to take place even on days of total fire ban,” he says.

“It allows growers to consider local weather conditions to make sound decisions for when they should cease harvesting.”

Mr Gale says GPSA’s role is to encourage adoption and educate the industry on the code.

“The GPSA website is a great resource for growers to learn more about the code,” he says.

“Many growers are investing in technology to measure relative humidity, wind speed and wind direction to further reduce risks, increase efficiency and record conditions. It is beneficial for growers to work with their neighbours to manage fire risk, and GPSA certainly encourages collective decisions about when to cease harvesting.”

Similarly, Mr Boyd says the Voluntary Grain Harvesting Guide in Victoria is giving growers the knowledge and power to assess their own fire danger risk and exercise caution regardless of their district’s fire ban status.

“Conditions on a farm can be different only a few kilometres apart depending on the lay of the land,” he says.

“The Voluntary Grain Harvesting Guide is a mechanism for our industry to self-regulate harvest practices.

“This is very valuable as it does mean we’re preventing potential disasters while also ensuring we’re adhering to legislation and potentially insurance risk mitigation requirements.”

Mr Boyd says grower awareness of fire risk management and what measures can be taken to reduce the incidence of fires not just at harvest, but year round, has increased remarkably since the VFF brought in the voluntary code in 2014.

As a part of the GPSA’s Know Your Code campaign the following on-farm actions to reduce fire risk are recommended:

  • Monitor weather conditions and forecasts to stop harvest when the local actual GFDI exceeds 35
  • Remove crop residues on machines
  • Regularly maintain machinery before and during harvest, particularly wearing parts and bearings, and keep 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.

Source: GPSA – Know Your Code

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