Skip to content

Worker severely injured by agricultural machine

In June 2019, a worker suffered traumatic injuries to both arms as a result of becoming entrapped by a pulling winch. The pulling winch was used on a vegetable growing farm to pull liners with compost from a shelf and unload onto a conveyor.

Early indications are the worker was undertaking a work task when, for reasons unknown one of his hands became entrapped by the machine. The worker then attempted to free his trapped hand with his free hand, which also became trapped.

Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

There are significant risks associated with using fixed and mobile plant. Death or serious injury can result from its unsafe use or exposure to unguarded moving parts of machinery. A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has duties under WHS legislation to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable the provision and maintenance of safe plant.

Hazards on agricultural plant and machinery that are likely to cause injury include:

  • rotating shafts, chains, drive belts, cables, pulleys or gears
  • the run-in points of belts, chains or cables
  • machine components that move, mix, cut, grind, pulp, crush, break or pulverise materials.

Managing work health and safety risks associated with plant is an ongoing process and involves four steps including: the identification of hazards, assessing risks, controls risks and then reviewing control measures to ensure they are working. Once the risks have been assessed, the next step is to control risks.

These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest (hierarchy of control). The WHS Regulation 2011 requires PCBU's to work through this hierarchy to choose the control that most effectively eliminates or, where that is not reasonably practicable, minimises the risk in the circumstances. You must always aim to eliminate a hazard, which is the most effective control. If this is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by one or a combination of the following:

  • Substitution - Substitute the plant (or hazardous parts of it) with plant that is safer.
  • Engineering controls - Include modifications to tools or equipment. For example, redesigning the electrical system to allow for the installation of emergency stop buttons within easy reach of operators of rural plant where entanglement may occur. Separate the hazardous plant from people either by distance or physical barrier. For example, a control measure, such as a hook, that provides a positive means of attaching the liner to the winch drum, so workers don't have to reach in to the hazardous area, while the machine is running, to ensure the liner is correctly attached.
  • Administrative controls - If any risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, for example, carrying out an isolation and lock-out tag-out procedure before accessing any parts of the plant. An isolation procedure could include:
    • isolating the pulling winch from all energy sources that can cause harm
    • locking out all isolation points
    • dissipating or restraining any stored energy that may give rise to a hazard.
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) - Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable PPE, such as providing workers with suitable clothing, protective eyewear and breathing protection.

Control measures should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are still working as planned. Common review methods include workplace inspections and consultation with workers.

If any issues are identified, revisit the risk management process and then make further decisions about control measures.


Since 2013, on average each year 38 workers' compensation claims are accepted relating to crush injuries involving machinery and fixed plant in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries. Approximately half of these claims involve serious injuries with five or more days off work.

From July 2013 to May 2019, we were notified of 48 incidents involving machinery and fixed plant injures in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. In the same period, we issued 536 statutory notices involving injuries or managing the risk of mobile or stationary plant in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2017, a company was fined $20,000 after both hands of a worker became caught and were drawn between the rollers of a large industrial machine resulting in de-gloving, crushing and multiple amputation injuries. The company authorised workers to bypass a malfunctioning light curtain on the machine. When operating correctly it ensured workers' hands could not become caught in the rollers of the machine as it caused the machine to stop operating.

Workers were required, as part of their daily start-up duties on the machine, to hand feed the materials between the rollers before it was operational. Due to the light curtain not being viable, the machine could be started when workers' hands were within the 'draw-in / crush' zone.

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