A worker sustained a serious spinal injury in October 2017 while travelling as a passenger in a troop carrier on a fruit and vegetable farm. The worker was in the back of the four wheel drive which rolled over after the driver lost control.
The vehicle was carrying seven people, two in the front, three in the back and two riding on the roof rack. The passengers on the roof were thrown clear and escaped serious injury, but others sustained minor injuries. The vehicle had no rear seating or restraints for passengers and an assortment of farming equipment was being carried unsecured.
It is unclear at this stage what caused the driver of the vehicle to lose control and investigations are continuing.
The PCBU is also being investigated for failing to immediately notify Workplace Health and Queensland (WHSQ) after becoming aware of the incident, and for failing to preserve the incident site.
Preventing a similar incident
Many workplaces use vehicles to carry passengers for work. Vehicles include cars, trucks, ATVs or other forms of mobile plant. Vehicles may be confined to use within the workplace or used on public roads. When carrying passengers in a vehicle, each passenger must have an allocated seat and the passenger must be provided with the same level of protection as the driver.
PCBU's must manage risks associated with:
- vehicles overturning
- things falling on the operator
- the operator (and any passengers) being ejected
- the vehicle colliding with any person or thing.
For passenger carrying vehicles, risk assessments must be carried out to determine:
- if the vehicle available is suitable for use
- any environmental risk factors – ground conditions, terrain, weather (including seasonal changes)
- if seatbelts or other forms of restraints are fitted
- whether equipment such as crush protection devices can be fitted to minimise the risk of injury from a rollover
- whether drivers are competent to operate vehicles with consideration given to the environmental factors.
Often vehicles used within the workplace, including farms or rural properties, are modified to suit a particular need within the workplace. Where modifications are made, such as adding or removing seating and restraints or fitting roll over protection systems, the PCBU must ensure they are certified by an engineer prior to use.
PCBU's must also ensure that:
- the vehicle is adequately maintained
- the vehicle isn't overloaded
- workers are provided with adequate information, training and instruction
- vehicles are registered as required when driving on a public road
- drivers hold a valid driver's licence when driving on a public road.
Since 2012, we have been notified of 40 incidents involving vehicle rollovers within the agricultural industry and a total of 150 across all industries. Not all fell within our regulatory jurisdiction as they happened on public roads.
We have responded directly to nine incidents involving agriculture industry 4WD rollovers where workers received serious injuries requiring hospital treatment. These led to six improvement notices and two prohibition notices being issued.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2009, a company was fined $29,000 after a labour hire worker who was travelling unrestrained on a trailer step fell and was crushed by the wheel, sustaining multiple fractures and internal injuries.
In 2015, a mobile plant supplier and a company that grows and harvests bananas were both prosecuted for their part in a potentially serious incident where a tractor being operated by a backpacker veered off the road rolling into a ditch. The vehicle was fitted with a roll-over protective structure, but no seatbelt. The plant supplier was fined $2000 and the PCBU was fined $1000.
WHSQ is currently prosecuting a company over an incident that occurred in 2016. A worker, who was travelling unrestrained in a trailer being towed by a tractor, was killed after he fell from the trailer.
WHSQ is prosecuting another company over an incident that also occurred in 2016. A worker was run over and killed by a trailer after he fell from the trailer while it was being towed.
In December 2016, a company was fined $33,000 after it failed to immediately notify WHSQ after becoming aware that a notifiable incident had occurred. It took two weeks to notify.
In March 2017, a company was fined $7500 for failing to immediately notify WHSQ after becoming aware that a notifiable incident had occurred. WHSQ did not become aware of the incident until some four months after the incident, following an anonymous tip off.
In June 2017, a company was fined $25,000 for failing to notify the regulator of a serious injury to a worker. WHSQ became aware of the incident when it was notified by lawyers acting for the injured worker, 17 months later. The magistrate noted that a charge was also available for failing to preserve the incident site and that no real investigation was possible.
Managing risks of plant in the workplace Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1.04 MB)
How to manage work health and safety risks Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
Managing the work environment and facilities Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 0.7 MB)
Safe Work Australia - Work-related injuries and fatalities on Australian farms