Handle with care: The latest workers compensation statistics indicate that hand piece injuries such as lockups account for 30.8 per cent of injuries.

Shearers back ​anti lock gear

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia is calling for workplace updates with safe equipment that will pay for itself in productivity.

The death of a young shearer in a shed accident in 2011 has prompted the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia to call for new safety equipment to be rolled out through all sheds.

In 2011 South Australian shearer, Brett Cupples, 29, was killed at a shearing shed at a Tarlee property from a lockup injury. 

The hand piece he was using fatally struck him in the neck. 

Out of control hand pieces cause a high number of injuries to shearers from minor to severe, with the latest workers compensation statistics indicating that hand piece injuries such as ‘lockups’ account for 30.8 per cent of injuries and $2,900,000 per annum. 

A lockup is when an obstacle, for example a small stick in the wool, lodges in between the comb and the cutter stopping its reciprocating movement from 3500 RPM to 0 RPM. A lockup rips the hand piece from the shearer’s hand and at this time becomes an air born lethal weapon. 

Traditionally when a lockup occurs the shearing plant keeps running and this is when the hand piece, once locked up, can cause serious injury to the user. 

But to solve the problem, anti lock shearing plants have been developed so if a lockup should occur, the motor automatically switches off. 

The hand piece does not become air born and in most recorded cases it does not leave the shearer’s hand. 

These anti lock plants however are not new, having been developed over a decade ago.

Jason Letchford, from the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia is urging farmers needing to replace old overhead equipment to consider the anti lock technology. 

“When talking about prohibiting the use of overhead gear, the real message is to get rid of lock up,” he said. 

“Positive things will happen in the shearing industry if we see anti lock motors installed.

“We won’t see another scalping incident and hopefully we won’t see another death. 

“If that shearing workplace had an anti lock overhead motor, that shearer would still be alive.” 

The new motors are much easier for shearers to work with producing less noise and vibration. 

“Vibration and noise are detrimental to workers, so there is a lot to be said for having a nation wide approach to this,” Mr Letchford said. 

“We need to get every shearing workplace up to date with safe equipment that will pay for itself in productivity.”

Mr Letchford said anti lock equipment could also likely have prevented a horrific accident in a shearing shed near the central west NSW town of Gulargambone in November 2017.

In that case, a young woman was scalped after her hair was caught in overhead shearing equipment. 

The harrowing incident prompted SafeWork NSW to issue a reminder that there was still room for improvement within the industry. 

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