Saleyards aren't up to scratch

Victorian livestock transporters frustrated at poor saleyards design


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Victorian livestock transporters have called for urgent upgrades to saleyards design

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LIVESTOCK TRANSPORTER: Mark Lincoln, Lincoln Transport, Gobur, is one of many livestock transporters the industry's peak body says has frustrations with saleyards and abattoir unloading facilities. Photo by Laura Ferguson.

LIVESTOCK TRANSPORTER: Mark Lincoln, Lincoln Transport, Gobur, is one of many livestock transporters the industry's peak body says has frustrations with saleyards and abattoir unloading facilities. Photo by Laura Ferguson.

The head of Victoria's peak rural and livestock transporters organisation says its members are increasingly frustrated at the poor standards of loading and unloading facilities at the States saleyards and abattoirs.

Livestock and Rural Transporters' Association of Victoria (LRTAV) president Graham Howell said many facilities were not "up to scratch".

"We are in contact with a lot of saleyards pointing out the problems they have," Mr Howell said.

"But many facility owners sit on their hands and do nothing, until something happens."

He said in July last year, a driver was seriously injured in an incident at one saleyard facility and had since had to sell his truck.

Thats what we have to put up with; iIt feels like we are banging our heads against the wall," he said.

More than six months ago, the LRTAV wrote to both the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and WorkSafe Victoria, providing a list of saleyards and abattoirs it believed were dangerous and caused drivers undue fatigue and stress.

"All of these sites have been contacted by the LRTAV to try and resolve the listed issues," Mr Howell said in the letter.

"WorkSafe Victoria have been told of the issues at these sites and have attempted to assist with the necessary improvements at some sites also but without success to date."

Mark Lincoln, Lincoln Transport, Gobur, agreed there were problems with a number of yards.

Even some of the new set ups dont work as well as they should, Mr Lincoln said.

A lot of these privateers that built the yards didnt listen to the comments and suggestions we had.

He said LRTAV vice president John Beer had been working closely with yards and abattoirs to improve loading and unloading facilities.

Some have come on board, others dont seem to try too hard," he said.

"People who have been in the industry a long time know how things work, but they dont seem to worry too much about us.

Poor facilities

Mr Howell said a principal area of concern was forcing yards, the pen used to force the cattle into the race or up a loading ramp, which sometimes sprung out when pressure was applied.

In other yards, the unloading ramps were too narrow.

They should be wide enough for animals to back out and turn around, or at least be built so stock can have a line of sight," he said.

He said the main objection raised by saleyards was cost.

They usually say its money, or well get around to it, he said.

There are some who say we dont sell enough stock, but thats not the point.

It only takes the wrong animal, at the wrong time, and someone could get seriously hurt, or worse, killed.

Mr Howell said there were regular minor incidents affecting transporters, which went unreported.

Nearly every week someone ends up with a sprain, or a break, or a near miss," he said.

Nearly every week someone ends up with a sprain, or a break, or a near miss. - Graham Howell, Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president

LRTAV safety committee chairman Mick Debenham said the group was also frustrated by a lack of action from the NHVR and WorkSafe Victoria.

Mr Debenham said neither body seemed to understand the concerns the LRTAV had raised with them.

We are having an enormous amount of trouble getting saleyards to make safety-related changes in the interests of our members and the livestock we transport, he said.

Saleyards and abattoirs seem to be extremely reluctant to spend any money on things that dont benefit them.

ALSA aware

Australian Livestock Saleyards Association (ALSA) president Stuart McLean said he was aware of several incidents, which should be looked at as experiences everyone should learn from.

We need to take every incident seriously and consider its ramifications, Mr McLean said.

When new facilities were being built, or old ones upgraded, livestock transporters had worked with saleyard operators to implement loading ramp standards.

There is work happening in that area, Mr McLean said.

I think there has always been quite a lot of discussion about saleyards, and the same sorts of facilities for feedlots and abattoirs.

He said a new standard, the 'Guide for Safe Design of Livestock Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards' was introduced about four years ago.

Its a matter of timing, as to how quickly the facilities get changed over, he said.

Its up to the individual saleyards, with their capital works programs.

While none of these things are mandatory, they are a standard everyone has agreed to.

Induction mandatory

ALSA executive officer Mark McDonald said all saleyards were supposed to hold induction courses for all regular users, including buyers, agents and transporters.

Certainly, our advice and understanding is that all major buyers, agents and transporters will be inducted, Mr McDonald said.

Most of the Victorian yards used the ALSA occupational health and safety package, which included a section on induction.

Some of them use a council derived package, but its our policy, they should be doing inductions," he said.

What we say to our members is that if you dont have an OH&S system in place, and do inductions, they are really going to hammer you if something goes wrong.

If you have a system, manage it, run it and keep it up to date.

He said there had been at least six cases of serious injuries in the last decade at yards around Australia.

A WorkSafe spokesman said inspectors visited saleyards to ensure risks to health and safety were adequately controlled and took enforcement action, where neccesary.

''WorkSafe has also worked with industry representatives to develop safety guidelines about separating livestock from employees," the spokesman said.

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