Farm Chemical Safety

The recent tragic death of a North Queensland greenhouse grower highlights the importance of workplace hazard identification and the safe storage and security of chemical fertilisers. Adrian Stanley (49) had washed out two drums and was welding one when it exploded. Police suspect chemical fumes may have sparked the explosion.

District Duty Officer Senior Sergeant Ian Wilkie said the man was discovered by neighbours who alerted emergency services. The isolated property on the Hervey Range was only accessible by a dirt road and there was no phone or radio reception, forcing Emergency Services to use satellite phones for communication. Adrian was taken to Townsville Hospital by helicopter in a critical condition, but died two days later from his injuries. Adrian was a loving father of seven and a well-known member of his local community and church.

Three weeks later, another explosion on the property seriously injured two of Adrian’s sons (11 and 13) while making homemade firecrackers. The younger boy suffered critical face and hand injuries, and his brother received serious facial injuries and a leg cut.  Both boys are expected to make a full recovery. The police do not believe the two incidents are related. Senior Sgt Lyons said people need to be vigilant about storing flammable chemicals.

“This is a tragic accident and what we want to get out to the public is if your children have access to these sorts of things, keep them locked up so these incidents can’t occur,” he said.

“It’s not for children or general members of the public to mess around with because the consequences can be fatal.

“We really need to be vigilant and keep these things locked away … children and chemicals don’t mix,” he told the Townsville Bulletin.

Both these incidents were avoidable. On-farm Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) processes define workplace procedures in hazard identification and risk control, and there is an obligation by growers to safely store and secure fertiliser chemicals.  Remember, fertilisers should always be kept well away from fuels. While the Hervey Range incidents are still under investigation by Queensland Police and workplace health and safety officers, they should serve as a reminder to all growers of the importance of OH&S procedures, and adherence to fertiliser storage and security regulations.  Importantly, there is no such thing as a safe, empty chemical drum!

In this issue, two of Oceania’s leading horticultural scientists report on the four-yearly International Horticultural Congress recently held in Brisbane. The event included a special symposium on innovation and new technologies in protected cropping. The symposium brought together experts from around the world to discuss how emerging technologies in covering materials, structures, plant biotechnologies, crop management and greenhouse automation can be managed more efficiently using innovative strategies. The Congress also included a symposium on organic waste, which included presentations on the use of organic fertilisers in hydroponic systems, and the use of plant waste to generate on-farm biogas to generate electricity. Ω

Steven Carruthers  

PH&G October 2014 / Issue 148