VIC: safety warning over recovery of bogged farm machinery

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, 22 November, 2022 - 12:30
Policy & legislation

With recent floods and significant rain events, WorkSafe Victoria has issued a safety alert to remind farmers and agricultural contractors about the dangers associated with the recovery of bogged farm machinery.

The alert was issued following fatal incidents caused by the attempted recovery of bogged farm machinery without proper safety precautions.

When attempting to recover bogged farm machinery such as utes, tractors, harvesters and other equipment, there is a risk of chains, cables, shackles or attachment points breaking and whipping back to strike machinery operators or bystanders.

The alert made a number of recommendations, and said avoiding getting bogged is the safest way to eliminate the risk:

  • Assess ground conditions before entering areas where boggy ground may be found, for example, inspect on foot or in a lighter vehicle.
  • Tell contractors and employees where boggy areas are, for example by using maps.
  • Create exclusion zones to prevent access to boggy areas, for example by geo-fencing or erecting temporary barricades.

Before attempting to recover bogged farm machinery, the alert said to ask the following questions:

  • Can I leave the farm machinery where it is and recover it later? For example, when conditions are drier or in the morning when you’re less fatigued.
  • Can I use traction aids, bog mats, tyre chains, lower tyre pressure or reduce the weight of the bogged machinery to enable the vehicle to be driven out?
  • Can I dig out the farm machinery?
  • Can I obtain the services of a specialist heavy vehicle recovery company?

If attempting to recover machinery, the following factors should be considered:

  • Is it possible to dig some of the bogged farm machinery out to make the recovery easier?
  • If using a recovery vehicle, is it suitable for the task?
  • Is the bogged farm machinery still running to assist in the recovery?
  • “Dead” towing should only be performed by specialist recovery contractors.

The alert also said to consider if weight can be removed from the bogged farm machinery before attempting to recover it, and:

  • Only use straps, chains, shackles, winches and other recovery equipment that is rated for the weight and type of work being undertaken.
  • Only use the equipment necessary and avoid joining different recovery equipment
  • Don’t use steel shackles to join recovery equipment eg. joining snatch straps could cause these to become a projectile
  • Ensure recovery ropes, chains, strops and snatch straps are weighed down with dampeners, eg. purchased dampeners, blankets, mats, old tyres
  • Consider that 4WD recovery equipment may not be appropriate for recovering larger farm machinery.

Ensure there is a means of communication between the machinery operators (for example, a phone or UHF radio) and the alert also said to:

  • Only attach to anchor points on vehicles and machinery that have been designed by the manufacturer for the purpose of towing.
  • Anchor points may only be suitable if the bogged equipment is able to be driven to assist in the towing.
  • Never attach the tow line to the three-point linkage of a tractor, or to any other point above the rear axle line, as doing so increases the risk of the tractor rearing up and rolling over backwards.

The recovery point on the front of farm machinery may only be strong enough to tow the equipment without the additional load connected to the bogged farm machinery.

Further, placing a dampener onto the recovery equipment should cause the equipment to fall to the ground if it breaks, rather than fly towards one of the vehicles.

“It is important to take the time to assess the situation before any attempt is made to recover a piece of bogged powered mobile plant. Do not go ahead with the recovery if the operation is not going to plan, or the available equipment is not sufficient to complete the task safely,” the alert said.

“Start with the lowest risk recovery option first – only if that fails should a recovery option of higher risk be considered. As the risk involved increases, the risk controls should also be increased.”