12:00 am, Friday 19 July, 2013
National Farm Safety Week highlights the need for vigilance when it comes to safety with tractors. According to the Safe Work Australia report “Work-Related Injuries and Fatalities on Farms” vehicles were involved in 71% of farm fatalities (251 out of 356) over a period of eight years till 2011 which equated to 26% or 93 workers dying in tractor-related incidents.
This was the highest of all vehicle incidents with 13% (48) with aircraft, 28 fatalities with light vehicles like cars and 8% (27) in incidents that involved quad bikes.
The rate of fatalities around tractors has fallen since a study was completed for the 1989-1992 period where the average was 25 deaths per year to the most recent study where the average is 11 workers each year.
However the issue as outlined in the report is that similar kinds of incidents are still claiming lives.
It has been mandatory for more than thirty years for any newly built tractors to have a Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS) installed and rebates have been in place for anyone wanting to fit a system to an existing tractor.
Unfortunately many farmers have not taken up the offer of the rebate and fitted ROPS which increases the risk of the operator being crushed if there is a rollover incident. Rollovers are the highest cause of tractor fatalities on farms with workers over the age of 55-years-old making up 50% of the rollover deaths.
Being hit by a tractor
It is estimated in the report that there are approximately four deaths every year when farmers are hit by their own tractors and workers over the age of 65 made up 52% of these cases.
Generally it was a case of where the tractors brakes were not applied properly while the operator dismounted to open a gate or perform another quick task and they were unable to get back on as it commenced moving.
It has been concluded in a previous study that fatalities each year from this cause would be halved if Safe Tractor Access Platforms (STAP) were fitted to tractors.
Other tractor related incidents
Other causes of fatalities from working around tractors include being run over when someone else is driving the tractor, electrocutions when contacting overhead power lines, crushed by trees or the tractor during repairs and one where a tractor was hit by a train.
There are a number of publications online that address safety whilst using tractors including: