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Fall from earthmoving machinery

In August 2020, a man suffered serious injuries after falling from an earthmoving machine he was apparently doing maintenance on. Early investigations indicate the man fell while exiting the machine.

Investigations are continuing.

IMPORTANT

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

Preventing a similar incident

The operation of powered mobile plant which includes but is not limited to earthmoving machinery (e.g. graders, scrapers, bulldozers and excavators) at workplaces, exposes people to a range of health and safety risks.

These include:

  • plant operators and service personnel falling from earthmoving equipment during onsite inspection, maintenance or repairs. (Source – Worksafe Victoria)
  • the plant colliding or contacting people or objects such as other vehicles or plant and energised powerlines
  • the plant overturning
  • objects falling on the operator
  • the operator being ejected from the plant.

People required to operate or work around powered mobile plant may also be exposed to excessive noise and vibration, hazardous fumes, and musculoskeletal hazards (e.g. access to plant, operator controls).

Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers all have health and safety duties to provide information about plant to enable other duty holders to fulfil the responsibilities they have in managing the risks associated with plant, including access. This information must be given to each person to whom the plant (or its design) is provided.

In addition, the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risk of falls associated with powered mobile plant when carrying out maintenance, inspection or repair work.

Four steps to managing risk

Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process.

Risk management involves four steps:

  1. identify the hazard – find out what could cause harm
  2. assess the risk – understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening
  3. control the risk – implement the most effective control measure reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  4. review risk controls – asses control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

Once the risks have been assessed, the next step is to implement control measures to manage the risks associated with accessing mobile plant.

Effective control measures are often made up of a combination of controls.

Risk control measures may include, but are not limited to:

Elimination

Removing the hazard or hazardous work practices associated is the most effective way to control risks. Work from the ground or on a solid construction, where it is reasonably practicable.

For example:

  • using tools with extendable handles.

If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of a fall, work your way down the remaining hierarchy of controls. This may include choosing one or a combination of the following controls.

Engineering controls

This involves changing physical characteristics of the plant to reduce the risk.

Examples may include:

  • gauges and inspection points accessible from the ground
  • integrated guardrails providing physical fall protection. Most manufacturers now produce earthmoving equipment with guardrail mounting points as standard and provide guardrails as an optional extra. Several manufacturers also produce after-market guardrails that can be fitted to existing plant.
    (Source – Worksafe Victoria)

Administrative controls

This includes information, training, instruction or supervision necessary to control the risks associated with plant. All operating manuals and instructional material provided by the manufacturer should be kept showing how to correctly operate and maintain the plant.

Examples include but not limited to:

  • safe work procedures that include but are not limited to instructions on:
    • how to safely access the plant. For example, a safe work procedure to reduce the risk of falls when entering or exiting vehicles or plant may include instructing drivers not to jump down from the cab and always maintain three points of contact when climbing into or out of the cab.
    • how to carry out inspections, shut-down, cleaning, repair and maintenance and emergency procedures. This includes regular maintenance on steps to repair damage and remove dirt build-up (Source – Worksafe Victoria)
  • training programs should be practical and ‘hands on’ and take into account the particular needs of workers like literacy levels, work experience and specific skills required for safe use of the plant.
  • ensuring worker training, experience and competency aligns with the requirements and complexity of the task.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment.

For example:

  • the use of hard hats, steel cap boots and high visibility vests
  • safety footwear should be:
    • suitable for the type of work and environment
    • comfortable with an adequate non-slip sole and appropriate tread
    • checked regularly to ensure treads are not worn away or clogged with contaminants.

Administrative control measures and PPE rely on human behaviour and supervision, and used on their own, tend to be least effective in minimising risks. The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.

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: