Safety alert issued after operators killed by mobile plant

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 17 January, 2023 - 12:15
Policy & legislation

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently issued a safety alert after a young worker was killed after being struck by the road roller he had been operating.

For reasons yet to be established, it appears the young worker has hopped off the road roller and was then struck by it.

In November 2022, a worker was also killed on an agricultural property. Initial investigations indicate the worker was operating a frontend loader, when for reasons yet to be established, they were ejected from the cabin and run over by the plant, suffering fatal injuries.

For hazards similar to these incidents, the alert said PCBUs must first consider controls that most effectively eliminate the risk or, where not reasonably practicable, that minimise the risks associated with mobile plant, including the risk of plant operators being struck by mobile plant such as road rollers and front end loaders they operate.

Before operating any powered mobile plant, the person with management or control of it must ensure that:

  • it is used and maintained in a safe condition in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications. Maintenance, inspection and testing must be carried out by a competent person
  • a suitable combination of operator protective devices for the plant is provided, maintained and used. For example; a seat belt (where fitted)
  • all safety features and warning devices are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, including but not limited to guarding, operational controls, emergency stops and warning devices
  • where the plant is provided with doors, the plant is only operated with the doors closed
  • where the operator’s cabin is airconditioned, the air-conditioner is operating correctly so the operator is not tempted to drive the plant with an open door
  • the operator controls are:
    • identified to indicate their nature and function
    • located so that they are readily and conveniently operated
    • located or guarded to prevent unintentional activation
    • able to be locked off.
  • ground conditions and the intended travel pathway have been inspected and assessed to identify any problem areas for example; sloping or soggy ground
  • when not in use, it is left in a state that does not create a risk to health and safety (e.g. engine turned off, keys removed, park brake applied, etc).


PCBUs must ensure workers are provided with information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety including but not limited to:

  • relevant information, training, instruction and supervision necessary to control the risks associated with the plant
  • workers are trained and competent to safely operate the mobile plant. All operators of mobile plant must receive training in the use of the specific make and model of plant they are required to operate. Untrained or inexperienced workers should not operate the plant, particularly in unfamiliar or high-risk terrain or for unfamiliar tasks
  • the manufacturer's operating instructions have been read and are followed
  • training programs should be practical and ‘hands-on’ and take into account particular needs of workers like literacy levels, work experience and specific skills required for the safe use of the plant
  • ensuring worker training, experience and competency align with the requirements and complexity of the task
  • workers who drive road-registered mobile plant hold the appropriate type of license to drive that vehicle, irrespective of whether the mobile plant is operated on a public road or worksites.

There are some special characteristics of young workers for PCBUs to consider when managing workplace health and safety. For example, young workers may not make mature decisions about how to work safely, so PCBUs employing young workers should:

  • understand young workers’ risk profile. This can help determine the best method of engaging and communicating with young workers
  • ensure a safe and healthy workplace
  • provide increased levels of direct supervision, particularly in relation to operating mobile plant
  • provide information, training, instruction and supervision in a form appropriate to young workers. Language and literacy levels also need to be taken into account when providing young workers with information and instruction
  • ensure that young workers understand what they are being told and shown during workplace inductions. Give clear instructions and ask them to repeat the instructions while encouraging them to ask questions
  • develop a positive workplace culture. While a positive workplace culture supports the health and safety of all workers, it is particularly important for young workers as it helps them to:
    • understand that their health and safety is valued
    • feel confident to report incidents and ask questions
    • shape a positive attitude towards health and safety that will guide them throughout their career.