In October 2018, a worker was killed when the grader he was operating moved while he was outside the cab. It appears he attempted to get back into the grader to stop it moving, but slipped and was run over by the rear wheels. He had been operating the grader on his own, clearing areas adjacent to fence lines at a large rural property. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
There have been many instances of mobile plant operators and other people nearby being killed or seriously injured after being hit, pinned or crushed by mobile plant.
In ideal circumstances, all vehicles should be turned off and the hand brake applied before the operator leaves the cab. However, for certain maintenance functions or when using ancillary equipment requiring power take-offs (e.g. vehicle mounted cranes), it may be necessary to have the engine running. In these cases, you must ensure the vehicle or mobile plant is adequately immobilised before carrying out further work. This may require additional steps such as turning the engine off and leaving it in gear to safely apply wheel chocks, before restarting the engine.
PCBUs using mobile plant must ensure:
- it is used in accordance with manufacturer's specifications
- the ignition/starter switch key is removed if left unattended
- 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 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 PCBU 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
- if it needs to be operated during maintenance, the risks associated with the maintenance activities have been eliminated or minimised.
PCBUs must ensure mobile plant's 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.
PCBUs 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 1 July 2013, there have been 1,659 notified events involving people injured or at risk of serious injury by being hit by moving objects involving graders, dozers or other mobile plant. Fourteen were fatal and 854 involved a serious injury.
In the same period, 56 statutory notices have been issued for the risk of people being hit by moving objects involving graders, dozers or other mobile plant.
Each year there are about 75 accepted workers' compensation claims involving a worker being struck or hit by self-propelled mobile plant. Of these, almost half involve a serious injury with requiring five or more days off work.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2016, a company was 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.
In 2014, a company was fined $70,000 after a worker was killed while performing scrub pulling using two dozers connected by a chain. One of the dozers had mechanical problems and stopped. The second dozer continued on, pulling the first dozer backwards. The worker either exited, fell or was ejected from the dozer and was run over by it. There was no communication system in place between the dozers.
- Managing risks 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, 0.65 MB)
- Managing the work environment and facilities code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.57 MB)