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Spate of serious tractor incidents prompts safety warning

A spate of incidents in which workers have died or been injured while operating tractors has prompted a warning from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, reminding workers and employers of safety basics.

Among the incidents are a tractor rollover, being runover by a tractor, being crushed by machinery towed by a tractor and being knocked off a moving tractor by a tree branch while slashing.

The incidents are not limited to rural workplaces - one was at the Indooroopilly Golf Club, where a tractor appears to have rolled while being used by an apprentice greenkeeper.

Tractors are essential for agricultural, green keeping, gardening, landscaping and other activities. They are usually quite safe when operated properly, but become dangerous if incorrectly used. They have been involved in more deaths than any other piece of rural machinery. Tractor run-overs 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.

WHSQ urges rural workplaces to take a little more time when planning jobs, especially when supply chain and environmental factors can vary the work at short notice.

About eight workers' compensation claims are accepted from workers trapped or hit by agricultural mobile plant each year, with 63 per cent involving serious injuries. Since 2012, WHSQ has been notified of 129 tractor incidents, including seven fatalities. Last year, a Queensland company was fined $450,000 after a young rural worker was killed when he fell from and was run over by a trailer being towed by a tractor.

Manufacturers and suppliers should provide information about what the tractor, including any precautions necessary to ensure its safe operation. It should cover tractor specifications and operational data.

Operators of tractors should read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions and be trained in the tractors' safe operating procedures and only climb on or off a tractor that is stopped. They should drive tractors at speeds slow enough to keep control over unexpected hazards and beware of wet conditions and descending slopes, or reducing speed before turning or applying the brakes.

Riding on machinery behind a tractor should only occur in specific situations where it is essential. PCBUs, through a thorough risk assessment process, should consider higher order controls including automated processes where possible.

Further information

More information on operating tractors safely is at: