In May 2022, a worker was crushed to death by a tractor. Early investigations indicate the man was operating the tractor (with slasher attachment) by himself. It appears he either got off the tractor while it was moving or fell from the tractor and it struck him.
Investigations are continuing.
These findings are not yet confirmed, and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Tractors are essential for agricultural, green keeping, gardening, landscaping and other activities. They are usually quite safe when operated properly but can be dangerous if incorrectly used. They have been involved in more deaths than any other piece of rural machinery. Runovers are mainly linked to:
- starting a tractor from the ground
- carrying passengers (usually children) on tractors
- attempting to get on or off a moving tractor.
Tractor operators are most at risk of injury when:
- the tractor does not have ROPS
- the operator does not wear fitted seatbelts
- the equipment is poorly maintained
- working on uneven terrain or rough, slick and muddy surfaces
- towing or pulling objects or loads
- travelling through pastures where high vegetation obscures stumps and/or potholes
- working near dams, ditches, irrigation channels, embankments or over-hanging structures.
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
Incidents occur when risks aren't properly assessed and controlled. Control measures will vary depending on the type of vehicle.
Tips and advice for working safely with a tractor:
- read and follow all the manufacturer's operating instructions
- ensure tractor drivers have completed specialised training for the particular farm needs
- a rollover protective structure must be fitted to the tractor in accordance with s. 216 Roll-over protection on tractors of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- ROPS must comply with the design and testing requirements specified in AS1636.1-1996 Tractors – Roll-over protective structures – Criteria and tests or an equivalent standard
- wear comfortable, well-fitting clothing and boots, as well as hearing protection when driving tractors without cabins, and wear a seat belt where fitted
- adjust the seat so controls can be operated comfortably and safely
- keep children away from tractors and machinery
- keep all guards in place, including power take off (PTO) and master shield guards
- do not carry passengers unless there is a designated seat and seat belt within the protective zone of the ROPS.
Hazards such as the uncontrolled movement of tractors and risks brought about by poor systems of work may also be minimised by:
- driving tractors at speeds slow enough to keep control over unexpected hazards ( operators should watch out for ditches, embankments, and depressions – unstable banks can cause overturns)
- never allowing people to ride on tractor carryalls
- not driving on gradients in wet conditions where there’s high risk of overturning because of sliding or the tractor’s wheels sinking into the ground
- reducing speed before turning or applying turning brakes (where a differential lock and turning brakes are fitted, ensure the differential lock is disengaged and the turning brakes are locked together before travelling from one work site to another)
- descending slopes cautiously with the tractor in low gear
- when a tractor is bogged in mud or in a ditch, drive out in reverse gear (logs and planks should only be used behind the rear wheels to increase traction, as using them in front of the rear wheels increases the chance of the wheels locking and the tractor backflipping)
- only climb on or off a tractor that is stopped (do not dismount while the engine is running unless the transmission is in the neutral or park position and the parking brake is effectively engaged)
- if towing a trailer, ensure the load is evenly balanced and well secured and always operate the vehicle at low speed.
If you are working in a remote area or working alone, always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected back. Also, make sure good communications are in place – for example, assessing mobile phone coverage and using two-way radios.
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- Rural plant code of practice 2004 (PDF, 0.63 MB)
- Safe design and operation of tractors code of practice 2005 (PDF, 0.5 MB)
- Safe use of tractors with attachments – Worksafe Victoria
- Tractor safety precautions
- Farms safety information – fact sheet (PDF, 0.64 MB)
- Tractors - a crushing blow - film
- Incident alert - Two workers injured by tractor slasher
Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident
For advice and support: