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Worker fatally struck by vehicle

In May 2022, a station hand was trapped between the vehicle he’d been driving and an access gate. Early investigations found the worker was checking water bores when he arrived at an access gate. It appears he put the work supplied four-wheel drive into low range before exiting the ute to open the gate. Tragically, the four-wheel drive vehicle has crept forward, fatally pinning him against the access gate.

Safety issues

Moving vehicles, including four-wheel drives, can pose potential risks to operators or others nearby, including:

  • the vehicle colliding or contacting people or objects such as other vehicles or plant and energised powerlines
  • the vehicle moving in an uncontrolled or unexpected manner
  • the vehicle overturning
  • objects falling on the operator
  • the operator being ejected from the vehicle.

Operators of mobile vehicles can often have severely restricted visibility of ground workers or nearby pedestrians, particularly those close to the vehicle.

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

There have been incidents where drivers and others have been killed or seriously injured after being hit, pinned or crushed by the uncontrolled movement of vehicles. The risk of a vehicle moving in an uncontrolled or unexpected manner must be managed by ensuring appropriate control measures are in place. Controls may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • before leaving a vehicle, ensure it’s stationary and out of gear with the park-brake applied so it cannot roll
  • do not climb onto a moving vehicle
  • do not allow any movement of the vehicle unless someone is driving and able to hear or see warnings and can immediately act to prevent harm (by applying the brakes or steering the vehicle)
  • when reversing, ensure the area around the vehicle is clear and always reverse using mirrors or a spotter.

Before operating any vehicle, the person with management or control of it should ensure:

  • the vehicle selected is right for the task, is roadworthy and is fitted with suitable safety features (such as rear-view mirrors and operating park brake)
  • the brakes, including the park brake, are well maintained, and operating effectively
    • some vehicles are now fitted with handbrake alarms to alert drivers the braking system is not engaged before hopping out
  • the use of suitable means of communication (two-way radio)
  • ground conditions and the intended travel pathway have been inspected and assessed to identify any problem areas such as sloping or soggy ground
  • the effect of adverse weather conditions (reduced visibility) has been considered
  • the vehicle is fitted with and has a working audible warning device (horn) that can be activated by the driver. The person with management or control of the vehicle must ensure it has a warning device to alert people who may be at risk from the movement of the vehicle. There are a number of warning devices that can be fitted to mobile vehicles to alert the operator and others including:
    • automatic audible alarms which are usually fitted to warn of reversing movement. These alarms emit an intermittent sound that is activated when the gear or drive lever is engaged. The sound should be distinct and clearly audible only in the hazard area.
  • vehicles are properly immobilised before being cleaned or worked on (positioned on level ground with the park brake and wheel chocks applied)
  • a suitable combination of operator protective devices for the vehicle such as seatbelts is provided
  • the manufacturer's operating instructions have been read and are followed
  • untrained or inexperienced workers should not operate the vehicle, particularly in unfamiliar or high-risk terrain or for unfamiliar tasks
  • information, training, instruction or supervision necessary to control the risks associated with the vehicle
  • training programs should be practical and ‘hands on’ and consider the particular needs of workers like literacy levels, work experience and specific skills required for safe use of the vehicle
  • ensuring worker training, experience and competency aligns with the requirements and complexity of the task
  • workers who drive road registered vehicles hold the appropriate type of license to drive that vehicle, irrespective of whether the vehicle is operated on a public road or private property
  • workers who operate vehicles, other than road registrable vehicles, are provided with familiarisation training on the specific make and model of vehicle (this training should be documented).

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

More information

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