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Worker fatally crushed after car falls off jack

In December 2021, the sole director of a rent-a-car business was crushed to death when the vehicle he was working fell on him. Early investigations revealed the man was repairing the vehicle after it had broken down a few days earlier. It appears the man had removed the front passenger wheel when the car slipped off the bottle jack and crushed him.

Safety issues

During a service or when repairs are done vehicles often need to be raised on a hoist or trolley jacks.

Serious crush injuries can occur when:

  • vehicles fall or roll off hoists, trolley jacks or axle stands (and when used on sloping or uneven ground, the injury risk increases)
  • lifting equipment is used incorrectly, not maintained, or is overloaded
  • the park brake is not engaged and the wheels are not chocked
  • vehicles are left in gear causing them to lurch forward (possibly striking or running over people)
  • heavily loaded vehicles (including attachments and modifications) are unstable and tip over when raised on hoists

Many of these incidents have occurred due to poor planning of the lifting operation – often because basic factors have been overlooked.

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

In the past, Queensland workers have been seriously injured or killed because a vehicle hasn't been effectively immobilised while work is being done underneath it. The risk of the vehicle moving in an uncontrolled or unexpected manner must be managed by ensuring appropriate controls are put in place.

These controls include, but are not limited to:

  • operators must be instructed, trained and/or supervised in the safe use of equipment
  • using components to support a vehicle, such as suitably load rated stands and lifting devices, including hoists and trolley jacks, which should only be used and maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications and instructions
  • trolley jacks, scissor jacks and bottle jacks are not designed to hold a vehicle while people work underneath - the vehicle should be placed on axle stands after it’s been jacked to the required height
  • consider heavy vehicle accessories which may alter the vehicles centre of gravity
  • always apply the hand brake and place vehicle in Park or Neutral when on a hoist or jack
  • using a flat even surface that can bear the general load of the vehicle and the point load of any equipment such as jacks/lifting equipment
  • identify the lifting point to correctly position the jack under the vehicle (check the manual or with the manufacturer if you are unsure)
  • when working alone – plan ahead, let others where you are and check in regularly
  • installing a handbrake warning system to alert drivers when the handbrake has not been applied (these can be retrofitted)
  • chocking wheels on both sides of the vehicle using serviceable purpose-built chocks.

Plant that supports vehicles must:

  • be used/designed to ensure structural integrity and stability
  • be fitted with an additional back-up safety system which must be engaged prior to commencing work underneath the plant. For example, use of vehicle axle stands (once vehicle raised from ground).

It is important to develop a safe work procedure that incorporates:

  • maintenance and repairs in line with the manufacturer's recommendations
  • conducting vehicle inspections
  • use of stands, jacks, chocks or other systems for immobilising vehicles
  • processes to isolate and effectively immobilise vehicles, which can include lockout and tag out procedures
  • providing workers with instruction, training and supervision on safe work procedures
  • ensuring worker training, experience and competency aligns with the requirements and complexity of the task
  • exclusion zones around vehicles (ensuring they are clearly marked and enforced).

The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are effective.

More information

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

For advice and support: