In November 2018, a worker on a rural property died when he was crushed by the wheels of the tractor he was operating. Initial findings suggest he was spraying herbicide on a sugar cane crop and got out of the tractor to re-fill the spray tanks which had been retro-fitted underneath the tractor. It appears the tractor rolled forward over him while he was under it re-filling the tanks. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Tractors are essential for agricultural, green keeping, gardening, landscaping and other activities. They are versatile and can have numerous functions, not only on farms, but many other workplaces.
Tractors are generally safe when operated properly, but can be very dangerous if incorrectly used. They have been involved in more deaths and serious injuries than any other piece of rural machinery. Run-overs are primarily linked to:
- starting a tractor from the ground
- carrying passengers (usually children)
- attempting to get on or off a moving tractor.
PCBUs must consider each type of hazard and its associated risk. Control measures must be chosen, implemented and regularly reviewed to ensure the safety of all tractor operators and training must be provided. Risk control measures include:
- Never climb on or off a tractor that is moving. Do not get out while the engine is running unless the transmission is in the neutral or park position and the handbrake is engaged.
- Reduce speed before turning or applying turning brakes.
- Descend slopes cautiously with the tractor in low gear. Extra care needs to be taken if towing trailers or implements down slopes, as often they will not have their own brakes.
- If an attachment becomes blocked, the tractor should be stopped, the drive to the attachment disconnected and the moving parts of the implement stopped before the obstruction is cleared.
- Seek expert technical advice before fixing counterweights or wheel weights (front or rear) to increase tractor stability.
- Be extra cautious when operating a tractor or any attached equipment while children or animals are nearby.
At the end of a task for which you have used a tractor:
- park on even ground
- shift the gear selector to neutral or park
- disconnect power sources and secure implements
- lower blades, buckets or any other attachments to the ground and/or securely block these attachments
- engage the handbrake
- stop the engine and remove the keys.
Every year there are on average eight accepted workers' compensation claims for injuries from trapped or hit by agricultural mobile plant. Two-thirds of these are serious injuries requiring five or more days off work.
Since 2012, there have been 129 notified incidents involving tractor and balers. Of these, 54 involved injuries requiring hospital treatment.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2014, a company was fined $35,000 after a worker sustained fractured ribs and internal injuries, when the tractor he was operating failed to navigate a bend on a farm road and drove over an embankment. He was not wearing the fitted seatbelt and was thrown out and run over by the tractor.
- Safe design and operation of tractors Code of Practice 2005 (PDF, 0.5 MB)
- Rural plant Code of Practice 2004 (PDF, 0.63 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Farms safety information (PDF, 0.64 MB)