In April 2020, a man suffered serious injuries after being crushed by a frontend loader. Initial enquiries found the operator got out of the cabin to untie a hay bale when the vehicle started rolling down a slope. It appears the operator was attempting to re-enter the cabin when he was trapped between the moving plant and a gate post.
IMPORTANT: These findings are not yet confirmed and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Preventing a similar incident
A number of Queensland workers have been seriously injured or killed because vehicles haven't been safely immobilised while work is being done on or around them. Duty holders must ensure trucks, trailers, and mobile plant are safely immobilised when they exit these vehicles or work around them.
The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage risks associated with immobilising vehicles. 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, which are: 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 implement control measures to manage the risks associated with immobilising vehicles.
Following the hierarchy of controls, you must always aim first to eliminate the hazard of a vehicle rolling when the operator is not inside it. If elimination is not possible, work your way down the order of controls. This includes 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;
- 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.
- Administrative controls - in addition to the above:
- developing safe work procedures for:
- conducting vehicle inspections
- use of stands, jacks, chocks or other systems for immobilising 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 and ensuring these are clearly marked and enforced.
Control measures should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are effective.
From July 2014 to January 2020, there have been on average 53 workers' compensation claims annually for crush related injuries involving trucks and semi-trailers.
In roughly the same period, there have been 20 notified events involving someone being run over by a truck. As a result, WHSQ has issued four statutory notices relating to incidents that involved a failure to manage the risk of unsafely immobilised trucks hitting people.
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 checking on bouncing that had occurred while driving. Moments later, the truck/trailer began moving backwards. Both the trailer and the truck rolled over the worker who suffered head and torso injuries which ultimately led to his death.
In December 2016, a company was fined $60,000 following the death of a worker who was run over by a vehicle. The incident occurred after the prime mover and trailer appeared to have trouble with releasing its trailer brakes. The worker went to the rear of the trailer and attempted to resolve the problem. 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.
- Safety alert - Heavy vehicles and trailers hitting or crushing workers
- Guidance - Safely immobilising heavy vehicles and trailers
- 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)
- Short Film - Safe systems to immobilise heavy vehicles and trailers