ALRTA News – 6 September 2019

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The task of loading or unloading animals into vehicles is the most dangerous part of the livestock transport task.  Unreported accidents and near misses are commonplace, with occasional major accidents and even deaths such as occurred in the case of Chad A Lynch (Victorian Coroners Court Reference: COR 2013 4693) in October 2013.
A survey of 40 members conducted at the LRTAV Annual Conference in August 2019 indicated that:

  • 80% of injuries requiring medical attention that occur during livestock loading or unloading are not reported to work safe authorities; and
  • For most drivers, near misses occur almost every day.

With several major incidents and reports involving livestock loading publicised recently, this newsletter is dedicated to highlighting the risks, information resources and steps that your state and national associations are taking to improve your safety.


The South Australian Ombudsman has determined that Safe Work South Australia (SWSA) failed to properly consider issuing a Prohibition Notice preventing the use of an unsafe livestock loading ramp and had erred in closing the investigation before necessary modifications to the ramp were completed.
The finding was issued in response to a complaint lodged by Mick Debenham (then LRTAV Secretary, and now ALRTA Vice President and Chair of the ALRTA Animal Welfare Committee) on 2 October 2018.  LRTAV raised concerns about ramp safety at Mount Gambier & District Saleyards with SWSA in February 2018 and again in August 2018 after a worker received a preventable injury relating to the original complaint.

ALRTA Vice President Mick Debenham. 

In February 2018, a ‘typical’ near miss was reported to SWSA after a cow turned at the top of the ramp and brushed past the loader. There was no safety gate so the only means of escape was to scale a nearby fence.
In March 2018, SWSA issued four Improvement Notices and subsequently closed the case in June 2018 being satisfied that the Improvement Notices had all been complied with. However, while an Action Plan that included engineering controls (modifications to flap, slam shut gate, personal access gate and walkway) had been developed, it had not been implemented when SWSA closed the file.
In August 2018, a driver unloading cattle was ‘hit’ on the same ramp, requiring first aid, ambulance and hospital admittance. Only then did SWSA issue a Prohibition Notice on the ramp.
Along with the primary determination outlined above, the Ombudsman recommended that:

  • New policies be developed concerning the issuance of Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices, including a requirement that Action Plans be implemented before SWSA can determine that an Improvement Notice has been complied with;
  • Training be provided on the above policy to all relevant staff;
  • A new complaint handling policy be developed; and
  • SWSA issue a written apology to LRTAV concerning failures in the conduct of the investigation and including advice on steps taken to improve future complaint investigations.

Mick Debenham reckons that the unfortunate reality is that the skill level of our drivers and handlers is keeping them alive – not the facilities that they are using.
ALRTA congratulates Mick Debenham and LRTAV for stoically pursuing improved safety at important loading and unloading sites.  This decision may have implications at other sites at which similar safety issues have been identified.
Read the decision here.


SafeWork NSW is investigating an incident in north western NSW that occurred in August 2019 in which a driver was fatally crushed by a bull.  The driver was loading a single deck trailer when the bull turned to exit and pinned him against the race wall.

The ramp where the incident occurred. 

SafeWork NSW have issued the following advice pending the outcome of the investigation.
Safety Information
Consider ‘reasonably practicable’ control measures to manage the risk of being crushed, kicked, trampled or gored. If you work with cattle during loading or unloading you are at greater risk of being injured when:

  • you are inside the confines of the loading ramp (either behind or in between the cattle).
  • you put your limbs through the bars of the ramp to move the cattle up or down the ramp.

Handlers must anticipate unpredictable animal behaviour when animals are in confined situations during loading, particularly when loading cattle by ramp. To stay safe:

  • Train workers to perform the task safely.
  • Design the loading ramp to accommodate the size and flow of the cattle.
  • Ensure the width of the loading ramp is appropriate to the breed or class of cattle that will be negotiating the ramp.
  • Ensure the slope of the loading ramp is not too steep.
  • Put sheeting or panels along the walls of the loading ramp (sheeted panels make the cattle focus on the ramp exit and eliminate other distractions, sheeting also prevents your legs getting caught).
  • Use a non-slip material on the floors of the ramp that does not vibrate or create noises likely to startle the animals.
  • Use a catwalk and handrail alongside the ramp to help handlers move cattle at a safe distance.
  • Fix a sliding gate at the top of the ramp that can be safely used to secure animals on the truck once it is loaded.
  • Employ ‘low stress’ livestock handling techniques during loading or unloading.

Further Information

You can also refer to the following guidance materials:


A WA livestock transporter has been held 80 per cent responsible for injuries sustained when a driver was crushed by a bull.
The incident occurred in February 2015 when the driver entered a trailer to encourage a baulking bull past a gate into an internal pen.  The bull turned on the driver, striking him and then crushing him against part of the loading dock. 
A WA District Court found that despite the driver being experienced and the risk being ‘blindingly obvious’, the operator should have explicitly instructed the driver never to enter the crate in such circumstances and to instead use the ‘three man method’ in which one person on each side of the outside of the crate encouraged the bull to move, while a third person closed the gate. 
Despite determining that the driver was 20 per cent contributorily negligent, the court awarded $977,000 in compensation.
Read the judgement here.


Your state and national associations, and fellow member operators, are working on many different initiatives that aim to improve your safety when loading or unloading livestock.  Here are some examples. If you have new ideas just let us know!

National Guidelines for Ramps and Forcing Yards

In July 2015, ALRTA published a free national Guide for Safe Design of Livestock Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards.

The purpose of the voluntary guide is to promote safer workplaces for people in contact with livestock loading facilities and to improve animal welfare outcomes.

The Guide summarises the potential hazards of livestock loading ramps and forcing yards and practical examples of ways to control associated risks for different types of facilities.

General principles are identified as well as a series of model ramp designs, ranging from low-cost basic designs for farms to more advanced commercial designs.

A National Ramp Standard

Based on the ALRTA ramp guidelines, Standards Australia is developing an enforceable national standard via the Australian National Committee SF-054 – Safe Design of Livestock Ramps and Forcing Yards.

It is expected that a national ramp standard will be published in late 2021. 

Cross Loading Platform

After extensive research, Frasers Livestock Transport designed a custom-built, free-standing cross-loading module that incorporates a series of elevated platforms, over-trailer walkways and sliding gates/barriers.

This new module has been a resounding success in terms of staff safety by decreasing the risks of falls, trips and contact with livestock and improved productivity through time efficiencies and enhanced livestock welfare.

In 2013 Frasers Livestock Transport won the Queensland Safe Work Award for Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue and in 2014 as well as the 9th Annual Safe Work Australia Awards Category 2 – Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue.

See the cross-loading module here.

Stock Crate Pivot Access Landing
LRTAV has worked with equipment suppliers to develop and promote safer supporting infrastructure such as the ProWay Stock Crate Pivot Access Landing (Crate P.A.L.).
The Crate P.A.L. swings in alongside a trailer to enable drivers to work at varying levels without the need to climb on the side or top of the crate.  Benefits include:

  • Improved productivity through reduced loading or unloading times.
  • Reduced on-road fatigue and/or incentive to speed.
  • Greatly reduced risk of slips, trips, falls, cuts, bruising and abrasions.

 See a Crate P.A.L. in action here.

User-pay Unloading Frame Research Trial

A trial of a ‘user-pay’ Crate P.A.L. commenced at Kilcoy Global Foods on 2 September 2019.  Funded through the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, the trial will explore the potential of a ‘user-pay’ system to facilitate more rapid uptake of safer unloading infrastructure at major livestock depots across Australia.

Over a 12-week period, a Crate P.A.L. will be available for use on a voluntary basis.  For those who choose to use the frame, a fee will be levied via the AVDATA system.  Fees have been determined via two surveys of ALRTA member operators.  The charge will initially be set at $15.00.  Every two weeks the fee will be reduced until it is removed completely.

ALRTA will collect de-identified data on usage rates at different charging levels. A combination of pricing and usage rate will be used to calculate capital pay-back periods (i.e. how long will it take to fully recover the cost of a Crate P.A.L. at different pricing levels?).  If user-pay is proven viable, ALRTA will develop a business case for the rapid installation of safer unloading infrastructure at other major livestock depots.

More information can be found here.

Local Action by Local Carriers

All ALRTA State Member Associations are actively progressing safety concerns raised by individual grassroots members with local feedlots, saleyards and processors – there are just too many to list!

If you are not a member – please sign up!  Pursuing action via a member association gets results.  You will have the strength of more than 700 fellow carriers on your side and you do not have to jeopardise the reputation of your own business.

You can find the contact details of all six ALRTA State Member Associations here:

  • Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association of New South Wales
  • Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria
  • Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of South Australia
  • Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Western Australia
  • Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland
  • Livestock Transporters Association of Tasmania.


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