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Dangers of not effectively immobilising vehicles

In February 2020, a man was crushed to death while doing mechanical repairs on a truck. Initial enquiries indicate he was under the truck when it inadvertently rolled forward and fell off a hydraulic bottle jack, fatally striking him.

One month later, a truck driver suffered serious leg injuries when trapped by his vehicle. Initial inquiries indicate the man was next to his truck when it unexpectedly rolled forward and crushed him.

IMPORTANT

These findings are not yet confirmed. Investigations are continuing into the exact cause.

Preventing a similar incident

A number of Queensland workers have been seriously injured or killed because a vehicle hasn't been effectively immobilised while work is being done underneath it. The risk of the vehicle moving in an uncontrolled or unexpected manner must be managed by ensuring appropriate controls are put in place.

The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage risks associated with immobilising vehicles. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process and involves four steps, including: identifying hazards, assessing risks, controlling risks, and reviewing control measures to ensure they are effective.

Once the risks have been assessed, the next step is to control risks associated with immobilising vehicles. These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control. PCBUs must work through this hierarchy to choose the controls that most effectively eliminate or, where that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks. PCBUs must first consider controls that most effectively eliminate the risk or, where not reasonably practicable, that minimise the risks.

You must always aim to eliminate a hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk. If these controls are not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by one or a combination of the following:

  • Engineering controls - this involves changing physical characteristics of the plant or work area to remove or reduce the risk. Examples include;
    • using components to support a vehicle, such as suitable load rated stands and lifting devices which should only be used and maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications and instructions
    • installing a handbrake warning system to alert drivers when the handbrake has not been applied
    • chocking wheels on both sides of the vehicle using serviceable purpose-built chocks
    • using a flat even surface that can bear the general load of the vehicle and the point load of any equipment such as jacks/lifting equipment.
  • Administrative controls - if risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example;
    • developing safe work procedures for:
      • maintenance and repair tasks in line with the manufacturer's recommendations
      • conducting vehicle inspections
      • use of stands, jacks, chocks or other systems for immobilising vehicles
      • a lock and tag out process to effectively immobilise vehicles
    • providing workers with instruction, training and supervision on safe work procedures
    • ensuing worker training, experience and competency aligns with the requirements and complexity of the task
    • exclusion zones around vehicles (ensuring they are clearly marked and enforced).

The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are effective.

Statistics

From July 2014 to January 2020, there were on average 53 workers' compensation claims annually for crush related injuries involving trucks and semi-trailers.

Between July 2014 and February 2020, there were 20 notified events involving a person being run over by a truck. In the same period, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland issued four statutory notices for injuries sustained because of, or managing the risk of, a truck-related run over.

Prosecutions and compliance

In May 2017, a company was fined $60,000 following the death of a worker who was run over by a truck/trailer. The worker was under the back of the trailer to check on bouncing that had occurred while driving. Moments later, the truck/trailer unexpectedly moved. The trailer wheels rolled over the worker, followed by the wheels of the truck. He suffered serious head and torso injuries from which he later died.

In December 2016, a company was fined $60,000 following the death of a worker who was run over by a prime mover and trailer, which appeared to have brake trouble. The man went to the rear of the trailer and attempted to release a trailer brake. When the vehicle began rolling backwards on a slight incline, he tried to re-engage the maxi-brake. Tragically, he was fatally struck by the trailer wheels.

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.