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Fatal incident involving semi-trailer tipper

In March 2023, a truck driver suffered fatal injuries after becoming trapped between the tipper body and chassis of a semi-trailer tipper combination. Early investigations indicated the truck driver appears to have been inspecting one of the tipper trailers at the time.

Investigations are continuing.

Safety issues

Equipment that uses hydraulics to assist movement has the potential to cause death or serious injury. Hydraulics are used across industries for trucks and transport, construction plant and equipment, farming machinery, manufacturing equipment, and amusement rides.

Serious crush injuries can result from normal movement of the hydraulic equipment and when the hydraulic systems fail, (from falling loads or unexpected moving parts). Plant arms or equipment can cause injury through rapid or slow movement, with or without the person being aware of the danger.

Contributing factors that may result in workers or others being crushed between the tipper body and chassis rail could include:

  • broken controls in the truck cabin
  • entering the crush zone (i.e., leaning over the chassis rail)
  • working under the tipper body without a back-up prop
  • failed hydraulic components such as hoses, oil galleries, or low oil reservoirs
  • untrained workers operating controls
  • failing to lock-out/tag-out, locking the vehicle cabin, or removing the keys.

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

The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 specific duties for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), which involves management or control of plant - including requirements to manage the health and safety risks associated.

The person with management or control of plant at a workplace, must ensure maintenance, inspection, and if necessary, testing of plant be carried out by a competent person.

Design features on tippers

All trucks and trailers with tipper bodies should be permanently fitted with safety props to prevent the tipper body lowering when workers need to access the area underneath. The safety prop should be:

  • easy to deploy in the correct way so that the risk of incorrect use is minimised.
  • fitted to the truck or trailer so that they are accessible without having to place part of a person’s body where it could be struck or crushed.
  • positioned and have adequate capacity to allow for additional loading due to retained load in addition to twisting forces from uneven loading.

Control valves and levers should be located to allow access without the need to be under a raised tipper body.

The hydraulic circuit on the tipper should incorporate a safety feature that stops uncontrolled lowering of the tipper body in the event a hydraulic hose ruptures.

Risk assessments

Before accessing any parts of the plant (including tipper truck systems) for cleaning, maintenance or repairs, all hazards must be identified and adequately controlled. Inspection should be conducted in accordance with a regular maintenance system to identify:

  • potential problems not anticipated during plant design or task analysis
  • deficiencies in plant or the equipment associated with use of the plant (for example wear and tear, corrosion, cavitation from oil leaks and damaged plant parts)
  • adverse effects of changes in processes or materials associated with plant
  • uneven ground or unloading / loading aprons
  • inadequacies in control measures previously implemented.

Safe systems of work

A safe system of work should be implemented to manage the risks associated with the inspection and maintenance of the plant (including tipper truck systems). The plant must be maintained and repaired according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If you identify deficiencies in the specifications, you should contact the manufacturer.

A safe system of work can include, but is not limited to:

  • Ensuring the plant, or part of the plant that could move, is adequately secured to prevent unexpected movement. This could include:
    • installing mechanical locks to support parts suspended by hydraulic systems.
    • using props, blocks, or chocks in accordance with the manufacturer’s safety instructions.
    • using purpose-designed and engineered support stands, jigs, or cradles.
    • warning alarms and hazardous area markings.
  • Consulting with the manufacturer, workers, and others involved in the work to obtain feedback on the plant’s associated work processes and safe work procedures.
  • When operating plant or machinery that use hydraulics:
    • never place yourself or others in a position where you could be crushed if hydraulics fail, or they are inadvertently used. When working on equipment, assess how it could shift if it were to move unexpectedly, and avoid working with any part of your body in the danger zone. Find alternative ways to access the equipment to maintain it, keeping workers out of the danger zone.
    • always read the instructions provided by the manufacturer and follow all safety directions.
    • if a back-up safety system is provided on the plant, ensure it has been correctly installed and is always in use before entering a high-risk zone.
    • if a remote control or remote control panel is installed, ensure it is functioning as designed, has an e-stop, and is worn or used in a way that prevents accidental actuation of the remote controls.
    • if a safety system is not provided on the machine, make sure you use alternative system specified by the manufacturer or competent person, and that it is load-rated and has adequate strength to withstand safely any loads that could be applied to it.
    • ensure workers working on, near, or under hydraulics are adequately trained and supervised. A safe work procedure should outline the potential risks of working on or near hydraulic equipment and the likely consequences of hydraulic failure.
  • Ensure there is sufficient space for safe access to the plant for maintenance and repair activities.
  • Never operate broken or worn equipment.
  • Develop an isolation procedure (known as lock-out/tag-out) which should be followed by workers when they are required to perform maintenance, repair, and cleaning of plant. Isolation procedures involve isolating potentially hazardous energy, so the plant does not move or start up accidentally. Isolating plant may also ensure entry to a restricted area is controlled while the specific task is being carried out.
  • Educate and train drivers on how to use the truck safely (i.e., induct drivers appropriately, including appropriate supervision for new drivers).
  • Consider the operating environment (i.e., wet weather, heat, cold, ground conditions).

Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, providing workers with steel cap boots, high visibility vests and protective eyewear.

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

More information

Australian Standards can be obtained by contacting Standards Australia.

Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury?

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