More tractor accidents than quad bike

The toll of nine deaths in tractor-related accidents in 2016 was higher than that from highly publicised quad bike incidents. Three of the tractor deaths involved people younger than 15. Source: Western Magazine

SafeWork NSW’s Tony Williams says the organisation conducts presentations or workshops on a range of safety, workers’ compensation, insurance, injury management, and legislative topics. These are free and can be done on the farm.

He said tractors were clearly vital machines on farms and used for many purposes, but there were still several safety issues.

Since the introduction of legislation that required all tractors built after 1981 to be fitted with a roll over protection structure (ROPS) there has been a decline in the number of tractor deaths. Accident causes have included tractors running over drivers.

“Farmers are on their tractors, they may be rushing to go to open a gate and the tractor moves and runs them over,” Mr Williams said. “We encourage people to switch off their tractors before they get off the machinery.”

Towing heavy farm machinery was another risk.

“We have seen cases where people are crushed between the two (tractor and what is being towed). People need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” he said.

Another issue was a tractor’s stub shaft, often called the Power Take-Off (PTO). There have been incidents where clothing has been caught and people have lost limbs and even their lives. He stressed the importance of shaft guards and keeping them in good condition.

And children and farm visitors should always be separated from tractors.

“It doesn’t happen as often, but it still has happened … a farmer might give a child a tractor ride and they have fallen off and are crushed.”

Electrical hazards are also a risk. There have been incidents where a tractor, usually towing something tall, has run into power lines.

Attachments – such as ropes – to tractors should also be certified to be used and appropriate for the task.

Mr Williams said while a majority of new tractors have safety features including reverse cameras, ROPS and PTO shaft guards, that it was important to have precautions in place and keep maintenance up-to-date.

The figures for tractor deaths in 2016 are from the Australian Farm Deaths and Injuries Media Monitors Snapshot for last year and also found there were eight non-fatal injuries in tractor accidents. In a 2011 report from Safe Work Australia Fatalities Due to Working with Tractors Australia 2003-14 to 2006-07 found that over the period 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2007, 65 workers were killed due to working with tractors.

These workers were primarily engaged in the agriculture sector.

A similar study undertaken by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) over the period from 1 January 1989 to 31 December 1992 found 102 workers died while using tractors, 89 in the agriculture sector.