In October 2017, a worker was killed after he was pinned between a cane haul out vehicle (a vehicle used to collect and remove sugar cane as it is harvested) and a fuel tanker trailer. The worker, who was the operator of the cane haul out vehicle, was attending to maintenance issues at the time. He was found by another worker who went to check on him after he failed to return or call on the UHF radio. He could not be revived.
It is not clear at this stage what caused the incident as there were no witnesses. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Incidents have occurred where mobile plant operators and other people nearby have been killed or seriously injured after being hit, pinned or crushed by the mobile plant.
In ideal circumstances, mobile plant should be turned off prior to exiting the vehicle. However, when performing certain maintenance functions or when using ancillary equipment requiring power takeoffs or vehicle mounted cranes, it may be necessary to have the engine running. In such circumstances, you must ensure that park brakes are applied and the vehicle or mobile plant is adequately immobilised before you get out of it.
If you are the person with management or control (PWMC) of mobile plant, you must ensure that:
- it is used in accordance with manufacturer's specifications
- the ignition/starter switch key is removed if you leave it
- no-one works in, under or around it unless it has been prevented from moving
- wheel chocks are used if required
- workers are trained and competent to safely operate it
- all safety features and warning devices are used in accordance with instructions, including guarding, operational controls, emergency stops and warning devices
- when not in use, it is left in a state that does not create a risk to health and safety.
Mobile plant maintenance, inspection and testing must be carried out by a competent person and the PWMC must ensure that:
- a safe system of work for maintenance is in place and workers follow it
- the plant is effectively immobilised
- maintenance is carried out in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations
- where the plant needs to be operated during maintenance, that the risks associated with the maintenance activities have been eliminated or minimised.
The PWMC of mobile plant must ensure that its controls are:
- identified to indicate their nature and function
- located so that they are readily and conveniently operated
- located or guarded to prevent unintentional activation
- able to be locked off.
PCBU's (person conducting a business or undertaking) must also manage the risks associated with workers carrying out work in isolation. A worker may be considered to be working in isolation even if there are other people nearby. For example, a worker carrying out unsupervised work activities in an area separate to other workers is considered to be working in isolation. Those working in isolation must have an effective means of communication and access to assistance including rescue, medical treatment and emergency services.
Since 2012, there have been nine deaths associated with being crushed or trapped while working on or around mobile plant. Six of those involved being crushed between mobile plant and stationary objects. During this period, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland attended an additional 164 notifiable events that resulted in serious injury requiring either hospitalisation or treatment of injuries, and eight notified dangerous events which exposed workers to a serious risk to their health and safety.
Each year there are approximately 300 workers' compensation claims made involving a worker receiving some type of injury relating to being trapped between a moving and stationary object. Injuries range from lacerations and contusions, fractures and traumatic amputations, to abdominal, chest and pelvic injuries. Of these claims, about 40 per cent resulted in a serious injury needing five or more days off work, and on average they include one death per year.
Between 2012 and 2017, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland issued a total of 62 statutory notices related to mobile plant colliding with pedestrians or other powered mobile plant. 54 of those notices were improvement notices and eight were prohibition notices involving an immediate or imminent risk to a person's health and safety.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2016 a company was prosecuted and fined $120 000 following the death of a mobile crane operator. The unlicensed worker was instructed to shift steel products using the crane. While attempting this task, he was seen running alongside the crane which was travelling, uncontrolled, down a slope. He either tripped or was struck, then was run over and killed by the crane.
Another company was fined $35 000 in 2016 after a worker was injured when he was crushed between pallets. He was kneeling down removing stock from a pallet when a forklift being operated by another person picked it up. The forklift continued to move forward crushing him against a second pallet and breaking his ribs.
Managing the Risk of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
Managing the work environment and facilities Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 0.57 MB)
Sugar Industry Code of Practice 2005 (PDF, 0.61 MB)
Safety alert – Heavy vehicles and trailers hitting or crushing workers