NT WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert highlighting the danger of exiting a moving tractor fitted with a trailing turf mower, following an incident in which a 35-year-old male had both legs amputated as a result of a workplace incident.
The man, who was the Director of a turf company at Middle Point (located approximately 66 km east southeast of Darwin) was operating a tractor attached with a power take-off (PTO) triple deck trailing turf mower.
He got out of the cabin and into the path the mower, which ran over him because the tractor was still under power moving forward.
The outer decks of the mower are 2.9 metres wide and the tractor was moving 3 to 5 km per hour, and he only had seconds to move out of the path of the mower.
At the time, he was working alone on the farm but had his phone with him and was able to call his neighbour for help.
Workers from his neighbour’s farm found the tractor and switched off the engine, but it took the workers another 15 minutes to find him because the tractor had travelled 890 metres past the point of impact.
While the company had the appropriate workers compensation insurance cover for its workers, the insurance cover did not include working directors.
The alert subsequently recommended a number of actions:
· Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating and safety instructions before operating a tractor.
· Ensure use of seatbelts whilst operating
· Do not get out of the cabin if the tractor is still moving.
· Before getting out of the cabin always:
o apply the park brake
o put the gear in neutral
o disengage the PTO and wait for the mower blades to stop
o switch off the engine, and
o wait for the tractor to come to a complete stop
· Do not operate any machinery under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Seek medical advice for prescription or over the counter medication.
· Consider fitting an engineering control which stops the tractor engine and disengages the PTO if the operator leaves the seat or cabin.
· People working alone or in isolation should always have a method of communication with them (such as a radio or mobile phone) to call for help in case of an emergency.
· Working directors should contact their insurance provider or broker to discuss if their current insurance arrangements include cover for working directors.