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Worker fatally crushed by hay bale accumulator

In November 2018, a worker was killed after he was crushed by a hay baling accumulator. An accumulator is towed behind a hay baler and is used to group hay bales together for easier pick up. Accumulators include a large deck that is raised and lowered with a hydraulic cylinder. It appears the accumulator operator was attending to maintenance issues when he was killed. He was found underneath the deck by another worker who went to check on him after contact ceased during a phone call. It is not clear at this stage what caused the incident. Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

Equipment that uses hydraulics to assist in its movement has the potential to cause serious injury or death. It is used in many industries for trucks and transport, construction plant and equipment, farming machinery, manufacturing equipment and amusement rides. The potential energy in hydraulic equipment can be extremely high as it is used to shift and support large loads.

When operating any machinery that uses hydraulic power:

  • always make sure that you read the instructions provided by the manufacturer and follow all safety directions
  • never place yourself in a position where you could be crushed in the event of hydraulics failure or inadvertent operation of the hydraulics
  • if a back-up safety prop is provided on the plant, always use it before entering a high risk zone
  • if a safety prop is not provided on the machine, make sure you use another prop that is load rated and has adequate strength to safely withstand any loads that could be applied to it.

A safe work procedure should outline the potential risks of working on or near hydraulic equipment and the likely consequences of hydraulic failure. Adequate control measures should be put in place to manage the risk. Businesses must also ensure their workers are trained and adequately supervised.

PCBUs must also provide a system of work that includes effective communication with workers in remote or isolated locations. If you are working in a remote area or working alone, always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to return.

Statistics

Since 2013, there have been 129 notified incidents involving tractors and balers. Each year there are around eight accepted workers' compensation claims involving a worker trapped or hit by agricultural mobile plant. Of these, almost two-thirds involve a serious injury needing five or more days off work.

In the same period, we have issued four tractor and baler related statutory notices.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2016, a company was fined $180,000 after a worker was fatally crushed when he was operating a vehicle loading crane. He had the remote control for the crane around his waist while he was securing an attachment to the crane to unload materials. He had difficulty connecting the hydraulic lines and while attempting to connect the final line he inadvertently struck the remote lever causing the crane to quickly rotate towards him, fatally crushing him against the stabiliser leg.

In 2016 a company was fined $160,000 after a worker was killed while operating a poly-welder machine. A team of workers were in the process of welding pipe sections using the poly-welder. While the workers were waiting for a pipe weld to cool they commenced preparations to lift the pipe from the poly-welder machine. The worker was attempting to reach through the poly-welder machine to retrieve a sling which was being used to lift the pipe from the poly-welder and inadvertently activated a lever causing the pipe support roller to rise and fatally crush his head.

More Information

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury? For advice and support, visit our Facebook page or email ohs.coronialliaison@oir.qld.gov.au.