Tips to re­duce har­vester fire risk

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Grains Re­search and Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion fire-safety ex­perts and other in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions are encouraging grow­ers to im­ple­ment prac­ti­cal mea­sures to re­duce the risk of har­vester fires.

Header fires have high­lighted the im­por­tance of har­vester hy­giene and main­te­nance, es­pe­cially when har­vest­ing volatile crops such as lentils.

Kon­dinin Group re­search re­veals that on av­er­age, about seven per­cent of har­vesters will start a fire ev­ery year. In th­ese cases, one in 10 will cause sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the ma­chine or sur­round­ing crop.

Kon­dinin Group re­search en­gi­neer Ben White, who has re­ported to the GRDC and in­dus­try on har­vester fires, said where har­vest was un­der­way it might be too late for grow­ers to make mod­i­fi­ca­tions such as ex­haust-sys­tem shield­ing treat­ments, so their at­ten­tion should be directed to on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing of ma­chin­ery through­out har­vest.

“Ma­chin­ery fail­ure is in many cases re­spon­si­ble for fires start­ing, so har­vester hy­giene is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant,” he said.

“Op­er­a­tors should be con­duct­ing reg­u­lar clean-outs dur­ing har­vest and ex­er­cis­ing par­tic­u­lar cau­tion when har­vest­ing leafy pulse crops, as th­ese are renowned for dust build-up.”

Mr White of­fered the fol­low­ing 10 tips to im­prove har­vester fire safety:

• Most har­vester fires are caused by dust and trash build-up and bear­ing fail­ures. Keep the ma­chine cleaned down reg­u­larly, start­ing at the front then work­ing in a top down ap­proach. A fi­nal re­visit and blast of air over the ex­haust sys­tem to dis­lodge any dust that might have been dis­turbed and set­tled in the course of the clean down is rec­om­mended.

• Pulse crops are sub­stan­tially more volatile than ce­re­als so ex­tra care and vig­i­lance is re­quired when har­vest­ing th­ese.

• Mon­i­tor­ing and log­ging bear­ing tem­per­a­tures with an in­fra-red heat gun or ther­mal im­ager helps iden­tify at-risk bear­ings so they can be re­placed be­fore fail­ure.

• Recog­nise the big four fac­tors that con­trib­ute to fires: rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity, am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture, wind and crop type and con­di­tions. Abide by state­based grain har­vest­ing codes of prac­tice and de­clared har­vest bans, and ob­serve the Grass­land Fire Dan­ger In­dex pro­to­col on high fire-risk days.

• Have at least the min­i­mum re­quired wa­ter and fire-fight­ing unit in the pad­dock be­ing har­vested.

• Hav­ing a pair of ex­tin­guish­ers – wa­ter and A/B/E – at the cab-en­try lad­der and a pair at the rear of the ma­chine closer to the en­gine means fire­fight­ing op­tions are avail­able when and where they are needed. A fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem pro­vides the best chance of ex­tin­guish­ing a fire on a har­vester.

• Hav­ing a fire plan in place with the har­vest team is im­per­a­tive. Know­ing who will do what and iden­ti­fy­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nels to be used means ev­ery­one knows what to do. Hav­ing a list­ing of emer­gency num­bers or uhf chan­nels in the cab is es­sen­tial.

• Har­vest­ing highly volatile crops such as lentils across the pad­dock into the pre­vail­ing wind gives op­er­a­tors a bet­ter chance of con­tain­ing the fire as in­cen­di­aries are blown onto stub­ble, not stand­ing crop.

• If op­er­a­tors do have a fire on board, pulling out of the crop im­me­di­ately and fac­ing the ma­chine into the wind be­fore at­tempt­ing to fight it gives the op­er­a­tor the best chance of con­trol­ling the fire. Re­mem­ber, har­vesters are re­place­able so pri­ori­tise per­sonal safety.

• Static does not start fires, be­cause it does not have enough en­ergy for ig­ni­tion of crop residues. Be mind­ful that it can, how­ever, con­trib­ute to dust-fuel loads on the ma­chine.

The GRDC is part of a na­tional har­vester fire work­ing group, led by Grain Pro­duc­ers Aus­tralia and re­view­ing re­search, devel­op­ment and ex­ten­sion gaps and as­so­ci­ated need for fu­ture in­vest­ment.

GPA chair­man An­drew Wei­de­mann, of Ru­pa­nyup, said it was im­por­tant for in­dus­try to unite in an ef­fort to counter the in­creas­ing in­ci­dence of har­vester fires.

“The work­ing group in­cludes grow­ers, the in­sur­ance in­dus­try, con­tract har­vesters and ma­chin­ery man­u­fac­tur­ers – we are work­ing to­gether to ad­dress the is­sue and pre­vent th­ese fires oc­cur­ring,” he said.

The GRDC’S Re­duc­ing Har­vester Fire Risk Back Pocket Guide is avail­able at Grdc-bpg-re­duc­ing­har­vester­firerisk.

MAIN­TE­NANCE: Re­mov­ing flammable ma­te­rial from the en­gine bay is im­por­tant in pre­vent­ing har­vester fires. Pic­ture: BEN WHITE

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