WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert highlighting the danger of farmers being killed or seriously injured if a tractor attachment point or linkage fails when it is supporting heavy farming equipment.
A farmer was constructing a wire fence with a hydraulic post driver attached to the back of a tractor using a 3-point linkage (one of the main ways farming equipment and implements are attached to a tractor).
In this instance the top link of the linkage was replaced with a connection that was integral to the post driver, and it appears that this connection has failed, allowing the post driver to fall away from the tractor and hit the farmer, who was behind the tractor.
The farmer was fatally injured as a result.
The alert said many farming implements rely on the tractor’s 3-point linkage for stability or to support the implement’s weight.
Because of this, the links in a 3-point linkage are often critical load-bearing components.
This is also the case for links replaced by connections integral to an implement, such as hydraulic tilt mechanisms.
If one or more of the links fails when carrying such an implement, the implement can fall down or away from the tractor, and the falling implement could hit someone nearby or damage the tractor or implement.
A link or other connection in a 3-point linkage could fail because:
These risks are also present with other types of tractor attachments where the attachment points form the critical load path.
The alert recommended a number of ways to control the risk via equipment:
For systems of work employers must provide systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health, and when working with heavy farm equipment: