Tractors are powerful machines used to make common tasks easier and faster to complete. They are safe when operated properly but can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
What is a tractor?
A tractor mostly has large wheels at the back and smaller wheels at the front. It has a powerful motor that is good at providing high pulling power at low speeds.
Tractors are used for agricultural, green keeping, landscaping, and other activities. They can be used on their own or have attachments added for specific tasks.
Tractors can be used to:
- pull, move, and haul heavy objects, trailers and machinery
- plough, aerate, cultivate and till soil or land
- clear brush and roads
- power machinery.
What are the risks of tractors?
The greatest risk of injury from tractors comes from rollovers, runovers and moving parts. They are heavy vehicles and can crush people or animals.
- Tractors are top heavy which makes rollovers possible when they are on uneven and sloping ground.
- Some tractors can be started and will move without the driver in the seat or cab, putting the driver and others at risk of runovers.
- Tractors have many moving parts which can injure hands and feet and entangle clothing, causing serious injury or death.
Other risks include:
- injury from collision with other objects including trees, vehicles, and overhead power lines
- injury from heavy objects falling when being lifted
- noise-induced hearing loss
- whole body vibration
- slips, trips, and falls while getting on and off the tractor.
How do I manage the risks?
Workers and managers should work together to reduce risks from tractors.
As a worker, you must:
- take care of your own health and safety as well as the health and safety of others
- cooperate with management to meet health and safety requirements and reduce risks.
As an employer or business owner, you have legal responsibilities as outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for the health and safety of every worker and visitor.
Following a four-step risk management process below will help your business meet its responsibilities under work health and safety (WHS) laws.
Four steps to manage risk
The first step is to identify the hazards.
Look at where you’ll be using the tractor and ask yourself:
- Will I be on steep, rough, slippery, or loose ground, or will the machinery or attachments I’m towing cause instability?
- Am I lifting something that could shift and unbalance me, or fall on me?
- Could anyone fall from the seat or cab and get runover?
- Can I start the engine without being in the operator’s seat?
- Is the tractor’s electrical system in good working condition?
- If there are children around, are they properly supervised?
- Am I tired or working with drugs or alcohol in my system?
Also, ask other workers if they are aware of any potential hazards before you start work.
Identifying hazards should be an ongoing activity and something which is organised at least once a year, or whenever there is a change in equipment, facilities, or work practices.
Next, assess the level of risk posed by each hazard. The risk level is determined by:
- how serious the potential harm is
- how likely it is to happen.
You can use this risk assessment template (DOCX, 0.02 MB) to guide you and record your assessments.
The law requires you to eliminate the risks if practical, or to minimise them as much as possible.
You must work through the hierarchy of controls to choose the control that most effectively eliminates or minimises the risks. This may involve a single control measure or combination of two or more different controls.
Find the hierarchy of controls in How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB).
Additional ways to control the risk include:
- general tractor safety precautions
- falling object protective structures, especially if the tractor is used for tree felling or in situations which create a risk to the operator of falling objects.
- suitable tractor training to ensure safe operation of the tractor while the operator is gaining experience operating it.
You should regularly review your control measures. Don’t wait for something to go wrong. If necessary, change or adjust your approach. The aim is to maintain a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
Standards and compliance
Codes of practice
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Safe design and operation of tractors code of practice 2005 (PDF, 0.5 MB)
- Rural plant code of practice (PDF, 0.63 MB)