Regulator issues warning about tractor safety and rollover protection

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of members. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 22 February, 2021 - 12:15
Policy & legislation
National News

Since the introduction of mandatory rollover protective structures on tractors in Australia in 1982, there has been a 72 per cent reduction in fatalities from tractor rollovers, according to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

However, tractors continue to be one of the most common causes of death and injuries on farms and the regulator said this has been highlighted in recent weeks by a spate of incidents including:

  • a dairy farmer who was killed when the tractor he was operating rolled and he was trapped beneath a rear mounted chemical tank
  • two contractors were seriously injured while they were spraying weeds and their tractor rolled down the side of a hill
  • a man who suffered serious leg injuries when he was trapped under a tractor after it rolled down an embankment
  • a farm manager was seriously injured while attempting to jump start a tractor from a ute and he was crushed between the two vehicles.

The person with management or control of a tractor at a workplace must ensure that the tractor is not used unless it is securely fitted with a roll-over-protective structure, according to WHS Regulation S216.

As such, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland said it is important to remember that tractor operators are most at risk of injury when:

  • the tractor does not have a rollover protection structure
  • the operator does not wear fitted seatbelts
  • the equipment is poorly maintained
  • working on sloping terrain
  • working on rough, slick or muddy surfaces
  • towing or pulling objects or loads
  • travelling through pastures where high vegetation can obscure stumps and/or potholes
  • working near dams, ditches, irrigation channels, embankments or over-hanging structures.

To provide the highest level of protection to people operating tractors, the regulator said to fit a compliant rollover protection structure or upgrade machinery to a vehicle fitted with rollover protection structure.

Changes in rollover protection structure design make them available in many configurations, including fold-down for working in orchards.

The regulator said there are a number of ways to work safely with tractors:

  • read and follow all of the manufacturer’s operating instructions
  • ensure tractor drivers have completed specialised training for the particular farm needs
  • a rollover protective structure must be fitted to the tractor in accordance with s. 216 Roll-over protection on tractors of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
  • rollover protection structures must comply with the design and testing requirements specified in AS1636.1-1996 Tractors – Roll-over protective structures – Criteria and tests or an equivalent standard
  • wear comfortable, well-fitting clothing and boots as well as hearing protection when driving tractors without cabins, and wear a seat belt where fitted
  • adjust the seat so that all controls can be operated comfortably and safely
  • keep children away from tractors and machinery
  • keep all guards in place, including power take off (PTO) and master shield guards
  • do not carry passengers unless there is a designated seat and seat belt within the protective zone of the ROPS.