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Take extra care on the tractor in wet conditions

Agriculture business must ensure all workers are aware of how to operate a tractor safely, particularly following a very wet start to 2024.

After weeks of rain in many parts of the state, farmers are urged to take care when using their tractors and machinery in the wet conditions.

Tractors are essential for a range of rural operations and activities, but they need to be operated with the utmost care. They are versatile and they are safe when they’re operated properly - but like any equipment, they can quickly become dangerous if used incorrectly. The number one cause of deaths on rural workplaces is still vehicle incidents.

A recent fatality in Palmerston in North Queensland has drawn attention to the hazards of working in wet conditions on steep, undulating, muddy terrain. Rollover risks for tractors are high, particularly when being driven on uneven ground, slight and steep slopes, edges of depressions, contour banks or water courses – especially if towing or pulling loads. Operators must read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions and be trained in the tractor’s safe operating procedures.

Tractor operators are most at risk of injury when:

  • the tractor does not have a rollover protective structure
  • the operator does not wear a seatbelt
  • 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 potholes
  • working near dams, ditches, irrigation channels, embankments or over-hanging structures
  • travelling at high speeds (e.g. on roads).

Incidents occur when risks aren’t properly assessed and controlled – and remember that young and inexperienced workers need more supervision and communication than experienced workers - employers have a duty to ensure they are properly inducted, trained and supervised until they are working safely.

Risk controls for tractors include:

  • a rollover protective structure (ROPS) which must be fitted to the tractor in accordance with s.216 Roll-over protection on tractors of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
  • a seat belt which prevents the operator from being ejected during use or a rollover
  • maintaining logbooks to record scheduled maintenance and repairs and any modifications which might affect the safe operation of the tractor
  • designing tractor implements so that the person fitting the implement does not have to stand between the tractor and implement while the tractor engine is running
  • never allowing people to ride on tractor carryalls
  • when operating a tractor at night or in low light conditions ensuring the tractor is fitted with effective lighting (e.g. headlights, work lights at the rear of the tractor, etc).

Further information

Read more about tractor safety.