Loading ramp standard accessibility concerns

Truck loading ramp standard fee an industry concern

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Accessing the Australian Standards document comes at a price.

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While the new Australian Standard for loading ramps has been hailed as a positive step forward by industry, there are concerns about the accessibility of the document for employers.

The standard was developed after a coronial inquest into the death of a livestock transporter caused by a ramp that failed.

A committee of industry representatives then developed the standards which were put out for public consultation.

The Australian Standard AS5340 Livestock loading/unloading ramps and forcing pens was made available at the end of 2020, but accessing the document comes at a cost of $125.

Victorian Farmers Federation senior farm safety advisor John Darcy said the fact employers could not access the standards freely was a long standing issue for industry.

"Industry associations and peak bodies at the national level have been calling on the Commonwealth to make all Australian Standards available to employers free of charge," he said.

"They need them to ensure they're compliant.

"Our advice to farmers is, if they are looking to upgrade then they obviously need to check and probably buy the standard.

"If they're looking to purchase, they should be asking their suppliers, their manufacturers, to provide evidence that the ramps they're buying have been measured against and certified up against the standard."

The VFF farm safety team, which was funded by Agriculture Victoria until July, could give free safety advice to farmers as an alternative to buying the standard, Mr Darcy said.

Many old, timber ramps on farms dated back decades and would not comply with the standard, while newer ones being manufactured may also not be adequate, he said.

Although the standard was not law, and therefore not enforceable by a regulator, it could be used in court.

"If for example there was a farm-related accident, WorkSafe could draw upon the standard as state of knowledge material and say to a court 'well the employer should have ensured their ramp was constructed to these standards'," he said.

The standard was created with the interests of the transport drivers, farm workers, and with animal welfare outcomes, he said.

But adopting the standard could also involve a commercial aspect for farmers, he said.

"Some of the livestock transport companies may instruct their drivers not to take livestock away from farms if the ramps aren't adequate," he said.

"They would do that out of concern for the safety and welfare of their employees.

"We've seen that before with fuel storages on farms, with some of the old tanks on the fuel stands that were rusted or deteriorated or bent.

"Some of the fuel supply companies some years ago issued edicts to their staff to not refuel some of the fuel tanks on farms because they weren't safe."

VFF livestock group president Steve Harrison said it was about industry being proactive, rather than reactive.

"As soon as there's another major death or injury, the government may come down hard on us and demand that everyone has the highest standard loading ramp available," he said.

"We're trying to avoid people in the pen with stock, so a walkway up the side of the ramp, a gate for driver access or even to stop stock coming back down the ramp.

"The other one is we don't want B-Doubles closing off major highways.

"What used to be adequate for a tray truck may not be adequate now for a B-Double or semi-trailer these days."

Incidents involving issues with ramps were still occurring, he said.

"There was a report the other day where a truck driver was loading only a couple of beasts and they fell through the wood and ramp structure," he said.

"It's not a good welfare outcome, it's not good for the truck driver or the owner - no-one wins."

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