Safe use of tractors fitted with a trailing turf mower
The purpose of this Safety Alert is to highlight the danger of exiting a moving tractor fitted with a trailing turf mower.
In January 2019, a 35 year old male had both legs amputated as a result of a workplace incident. He was the Director of a turf company at Middle Point, located approximately 66 km east southeast of Darwin.
He was operating a tractor attached with a power take-off (PTO) triple deck trailing turf mower, when he got out of the cabin and into the path the mower. The mower 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. He only had seconds to move out of the path of the mower:
- Less than 4 seconds if the tractor was moving at 3 km per hour
- Less than 2.5 seconds if the tractor was moving at 5 km per hour.
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. 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 Director did not follow the manufacturer’s operating and safety instructions or warnings.
- He exited the tractor cabin while the tractor was still moving putting himself in the path of the mower.
- The mower was still operational as the PTO was still engaged.
- 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:
- apply the park brake
- put the gear in neutral
- disengage the PTO and wait for the mower blades to stop
- switch off the engine, and
- 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.
For further information please refer to the following.
- Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations 2011
- Return to Work Act 1986
- Managing the risk of machinery in rural workplaces
- Employers guide to workers compensation
- Remote or isolated work
This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.