Dam Safety Under The Spotlight

02 May 2019

The Andrews Labor Government is warning farmers and earthmoving contractors to be safe around dams following two serious incidents in April, including a fatality.

Victoria has around 450,000 dams, many of which are on farms and private properties and have been significantly impacted by a lack of rainfall this year.

The soil around dry dams can be prone to collapse, particularly when digging or using machinery.

Tragically a man in his 20s died last month when he became buried at the base of a dry dam at a property in East Gippsland. It’s believed he was excavating a trench at the base of the dam when it collapsed on him.

In another incident a farmer in his 70s was injured after his tractor rolled while he was working on a dam at Mt Moriac on Saturday.

To reduce the risks associated with working around dry dams, farmers and contractors should:

  • Inspect the environment and identify unstable ground before commencing work
  • Only use equipment they are competent with and only use it within its operating range
  • Avoid driving machinery over slopes and embankments to reduce the risk of a roll over
  • Ensure a hard stand area for excavators is stable and not undermined by vermin
  • Seek assistance when recovering bogged equipment and/or animals
  • Ensure they have access to a means of communication, either a phone or radio
  • Avoid working alone, and have others check in on them.

Dry dams are as dangerous as trenches and the risk of collapse must be considered when they are being dug out.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy

“We’ve already lost 11 Victorians to workplace incidents this year. We need employers and workers to take safety seriously so more families don’t have to experience the heartbreak of losing a loved one.”

“Safety around dams is so important, even surfaces that look hard can be soft underneath and may give way under the weight of machinery, causing it to tip or roll.”

Quotes attributable to WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen

“Farmers and contractors often use dry periods to carry out maintenance and repairs on dams, but they still need to consider safety before they commence work - even much-needed rain won’t reduce the risk.”

The fact that farmers and contractors often work alone in areas that have poor mobile phone coverage compounds this risk.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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