In February 2019, a worker was killed while repairing a skid steer loader. Early investigations indicate the safety prop was not engaged to ensure the bucket arms could not be lowered. The worker inadvertently activated the controls and was crushed by the arms. It appears the mechanisms which enable the hand controls to be isolated were inoperative due to general wear and tear on the machine. 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.
Serious crush injuries can result from normal movement of the hydraulic equipment, and when the hydraulic systems fail, falling loads or unexpected moving parts are extremely dangerous. Plant arms or equipment can cause injury through rapid or slow movement without the worker being aware of the danger.
PCBUs must ensure all plant is safe and inspected and maintained by a competent person in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations.
A safe system of work should be implemented to manage the risks associated with inspection and maintenance of plant. The manufacturer's instructions should be included in a safe work procedure on how inspection and maintenance should be carried out. PCBUs must also provide information, training and instruction to a worker that is suitable and adequate to:
- the nature of the work to be carried out by the worker
- the nature of the risks associated with the work (at the time the information, training or instruction is provided)
- the control measures implemented to deal with these risks.
When operating any machinery that uses hydraulic power:
- always read the instructions provided by the manufacturer and follow all safety directions
- never place yourself or others 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 system is provided on the plant, ensure it has been correctly installed and always in use before entering a high-risk zone
- if a safety system is not provided on the machine, make sure you use another system that is specified by the manufacturer and is load rated and has adequate strength to safely withstand any loads that could be applied to it
- ensure workers working on, near or under hydraulics are adequately trained and supervised.
Since 2012 there has been an average of 75 accepted workers' compensation claims each year for injuries involving workers struck or hit by a self-propelled plant. Forty-eight per cent of these involve serious injuries requiring five or more days off work. The most common industries where these types of claims occur are the construction, manufacturing and rural industries.
In the same period we have been notified of 1,659 incidents involving workers or bystanders being struck by graders, dozers or other mobile plant, 77 of which were skid steer loaders.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2017, a sole trader was fined $80,000 after a worker died of traumatic asphyxiation when he was dismantling an amusement ride. The worker was dismantling the ride which required a hydraulic system to keep the centre pole raised while the worker had to place themselves directly under the pole to remove the bolts. Once the bolts were removed from the centre pole, the only protection workers had from the telescoped centre pole was the hydraulic system. As he removed the last of the bolts, the centre pole dropped suddenly, causing him to be trapped by the pole and chains causing fatal injuries.
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.
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Managing the Risk of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- Hydraulics safety (PDF, 0.85 MB)
- Mobile plant
- SafeWork NSW Alert – Skid steer loader