Skip to content

Worker fatally injured attempting to jump start a tractor

In December 2020, a worker was fatally injured attempting to jump start a tractor. Early investigations indicate a worker drove a car into the machinery shed where the tractor was parked. The automatic vehicle was left in drive with the handbrake on. After applying jumper leads to the tractor, the worker opened the car door and pushed the accelerator which caused it to lurch forward. The door closed trapping the worker causing fatal injuries.

Safety issues

There have been incidents where workers and others have been killed or seriously injured after being hit, pinned or crushed by the uncontrolled movement of mobile plant such as work vehicles. The risk of a vehicle moving in an uncontrolled or unexpected manner must be managed using appropriate control measures.

Incidents of this type can occur in all industry sectors using mobile plant.

Ways to manage health and safety

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks at work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks. Eliminating the hazard entirely is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents:

Control measures will vary depending on the type of vehicle. Controls may include, but are not limited to:

  • Never use a vehicle to jump start another vehicle unless both vehicles are in park (automatic gearbox) or neutral (manual gearbox) with park brakes applied.
  • Consider using a mobile battery pack (i.e. secured to a hand trolley) to jump start vehicles.
  • Only operate a vehicle from the designated operator’s position (i.e. in the case of a car or truck, sitting in the driver’s seat).
  • If possible, operate the vehicle on flat level ground.
  • Do not drive or operate the vehicle on excessive slopes, or on ground that is too slippery or too soft to safely support it.
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations to safely operate the vehicle, particularly in relation to;
    • maximum allowable ground slope
    • allowable ground conditions and restrictions for soft or slippery surfaces
    • specific setup requirements including vehicle restraints (i.e. wheel chocks) as specified for use with the vehicle.
  • Before starting the work, conduct a risk assessment of the site conditions where the vehicle is to travel or operate.
  • If the vehicle cannot safely access or operate in the proposed location, an alternate work method should be used.
  • Ensure the hand/park brake is on before exiting the vehicle.
  • Ensure the brakes, including the hand/park brake, are well maintained.
  • Install a warning system to alert drivers when the hand/park brake hasn’t been applied (these can be easily retro fitted).
  • Do not stand in the potential path of a vehicle when the engine is running.

For hazards similar to this incident, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must first consider controls that most effectively eliminate the risk or, where not reasonably practicable, that minimise the risks. Hazards such as the uncontrolled movement of vehicles and risks brought about by poor systems of work, may also be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. Consider developing and implementing a safe system of work that can include:

  • developing safe work procedures for:
    • maintenance and repairs in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations
    • use of props, jacks, or other systems in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • 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
  • ensure only those workers who have received training and instruction are authorised to carry out the work
  • sufficiently monitor all work to ensure safe work practices are being adhered to, including the use of all safety procedures and systems and personal protective equipment
  • exclusion zones around the plant (ensuring they are clearly marked and enforced).

Administrative control measures rely on human behaviour and supervision, and used on their own, tend to be least effective in minimising risks.

The control measures put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.

More Information

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury?

For advice and support: