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Operators killed by mobile plant

In October 2022, a young worker was killed after being struck by the road roller he had been operating. For reasons yet to be established, it appears the young worker has hopped off the road roller and was then struck by it.

In November 2022, a worker was also killed on an agricultural property. Initial investigations indicate the worker was operating a front end loader, when for reasons yet to be established, they were ejected from the cabin and run over by the plant, suffering fatal injuries.

Investigations are continuing into both incidents.

Safety issues

Incidents have occurred where mobile plant operators and other people nearby have been killed or seriously injured after being hit, pinned or crushed by the mobile plant.

The operation of powered mobile plant at construction and other workplaces exposes workers to a range of risks to health and safety. These risks include:

  • the operator being ejected from the plant
  • persons being run over by the plant
  • the plant overturning
  • things falling on the operator of the plant
  • the plant colliding or coming into contact with a person or other vehicles or plant and energised powerlines
  • mechanical or other failures (e.g. hydraulic failures, release of hazardous substances).

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 (WHS Act).

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

For hazards similar to these incidents, PCBUs must first consider controls that most effectively eliminate the risk or, where not reasonably practicable, that minimise the risks associated with mobile plant, including the risk of plant operators being struck by mobile plant such as road rollers and front end loaders they operate.

Before operating any powered mobile plant, the person with management or control of it must ensure that:

  • it is used and maintained in a safe condition in accordance with manufacturer's specifications. Maintenance, inspection and testing must be carried out by a competent person
  • a suitable combination of operator protective devices for the plant is provided, maintained and used. For example; a seat belt (where fitted)
  • all safety features and warning devices are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, including but not limited to guarding, operational controls, emergency stops and warning devices
  • where the plant is provided with doors, the plant is only operated with the doors closed
  • where the operator’s cabin is airconditioned, the air-conditioner is operating correctly so the operator is not tempted to drive the plant with an open door
  • the operator controls are:
    • identified to indicate their nature and function
    • located so that they are readily and conveniently operated
    • located or guarded to prevent unintentional activation
    • able to be locked off.
  • ground conditions and the intended travel pathway have been inspected and assessed to identify any problem areas for example; sloping or soggy ground
  • when not in use, it is left in a state that does not create a risk to health and safety (e.g. engine turned off, keys removed, park brake applied, etc).

PCBUs must ensure workers are provided with information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety including but not limited to:

  • relevant information, training, instruction and supervision necessary to control the risks associated with the plant
  • workers are trained and competent to safely operate the mobile plant. All operators of mobile plant must receive training in the use of the specific make and model of plant they are required to operate. Untrained or inexperienced workers should not operate the plant, particularly in unfamiliar or high-risk terrain or for unfamiliar tasks
  • the manufacturer's operating instructions have been read and are followed
  • training programs should be practical and ‘hands on’ and take into account 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
  • workers who drive road registered mobile plant hold the appropriate type of license to drive that vehicle, irrespective of whether the mobile plant is operated on a public road or worksites.

Young workers

There are some special characteristics of young workers for PCBU’s to consider when managing workplace health and safety. For example, young workers may not make mature decisions about how to work safely.

PCBU’s employing young workers should:

  • understand young workers' risk profile. This can help determine the best method of engaging and communicating with young workers
  • ensure a safe and healthy workplace
  • provide increased levels of direct supervision, particularly in relation to operating mobile plant
  • provide information, training, instruction and supervision in a form appropriate to young workers. Language and literacy levels also need to be taken into account when providing young workers with information and instruction
  • ensure that young workers understand what they are being told and shown during workplace inductions. Give clear instructions and ask them to repeat the instructions while encouraging them to ask questions
  • develop a positive workplace culture. While a positive workplace culture supports the health and safety of all workers, it is particularly important for young workers as it helps them to:
    • understand that their health and safety is valued
    • feel confident to report incidents and ask questions
    • shape a positive attitude towards health and safety that will guide them throughout their career.

Consider the tasks you give to new and young workers given their skills, abilities and experience. Supervisors and managers also influence the health and safety of young workers through good work design. Induction programs should also inform young workers about their duties as a worker under the WHS Act.

The control measures 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

For advice and support: