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Skid steer loader incidents

In April 2021, a plant operator was killed when he was struck by the skid steer loader he was using . Early investigations indicate the skid steer loader was being used to repair a residential driveway and it struck the worker after he fell out of the machine.

In a separate incident in May 2021, another plant operator received lacerations to his head when he was struck by piece of timber. Initial enquiries indicate he was using a skid steer loader to remove a rubbish pile at a construction site, when for reasons yet to be established the timber was pushed up in the rubbish pile, entering the loader’s cabin and striking the operator.

Investigations into both incidents are continuing.

Safety issues

Operating powered mobile plant at construction workplaces exposes workers to a range of health and safety risks, including:

  • the plant overturning
  • things falling on the operator of the plant
  • the operator being ejected from the plant
  • the plant colliding or coming into contact with, for example workers, other vehicles or plant, energised powerlines
  • mechanical or other failures (hydraulic failures, release of hazardous substances).

Powered mobile plant may also present a risk if steps are not taken to prevent uncontrolled movement (for example rolling down a sloping surface), or unauthorised operation.

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 that 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 in your place of 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, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

Powered mobile plant includes but is not limited to earthmoving machinery (e.g. rollers, graders, scrapers, excavators and skid steer loaders), tractors, forklifts mobile cranes, elevating work platforms and telehandlers. A person conducting a business or undertaking must first consider controls that most effectively eliminate the risk or, where not reasonably practicable, that minimise the risks.

Effective controls for managing the risks of operating mobile plant are often made up of a combination of controls. The WHS Regulation requires the implementation of specific controls for powered mobile plant by the person with management or control. These specific controls include:

  • ensuring a suitable combination of operator protective devices for the plant is provided, maintained and used. For example, enclosed cabin and seatbelts to prevent the ejection of the operator or the operator being struck by falling objects.
  • ensuring the plant does not collide with pedestrians or other powered mobile plant
  • where there is a risk of collision, that the plant has a warning device to warn other persons of the risk
  • ensuring no person other than the operator rides on the plant unless the person is provided with a level of protection that is equivalent to that provided to the operator.
  • maintenance, inspection and, if necessary, testing of plant is carried out by a competent person. The maintenance, inspection and testing must be carried out:
  • in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations
  • if there are no manufacturer's recommendations, in accordance with the recommendations of a competent person,
  • in relation to inspection if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with the above, annually.

For hazards similar to these incidents, health and safety risks may also be minimised by further control measures. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • ensuring the appropriate plant is used for the task
  • ensuring the supporting ground surface is suitable for the plant, especially if the terrain is uneven, wet or has underground services in the vicinity of the work area.
  • ensuring the plant displays the safe working load and ensuring load measurement devices are operating correctly where provided.

Administrative controls can include:

  • ensuring the manufacturer’s operating manuals are available with the plant
  • ensuring operators are able to demonstrate that they are competent to operate the specific type of plant being used and attachments fitted
  • in some circumstances, the operator of the mobile plant may also need to hold the appropriate high-risk work licence
  • daily pre-start checks undertaken by the plant operator on the general condition of the plant in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment. For example: hard hats, steel cap boots, earmuffs or earplugs, safety glasses, gloves and high visibility vests.

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

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