WorkSafe urges rethink on trailer safety

WorkSafe is reminding agribusinesses, farmers and workers to not ignore the dangers of riding on the back of trailers and attachments following a number of serious incidents.
News article published

Monday 04 Apr 2022

Industries and topics
  • Agriculture

A 70-year-old worker suffered critical head injuries and later died in hospital after falling from a trailer being towed by a tractor at Woorinen South in February.

Sadly, it was the third life lost in a workplace incident involving falls from trailers and attachments since 2018, with a number of serious injuries also recorded over this period.

A 68-year-old worker lost his life when he fell and was run over by a tractor and trailer at Somerville in 2020 and a 56-year-old farmer died after he was crushed while feeding stock using a tractor and trailer on a farm near Mansfield in 2018.

In March, a worker suffered serious injuries after they fell from the trailer they were riding on during burning off work.

It follows seven serious incidents involving passengers falling from trailers and attachments in the past four years, including:

  • A worker who suffered head injuries after being knocked down by a plastic tub they were holding while riding on the back of a trailer.
  • A farmer who suffered chest injuries after being run over after falling from the trailer they had been riding on.
  • A child who was run over after falling from the trailer they had been riding on during grape picking work.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said using trailers to carry passengers on farms or roads posed a significant risk.

"There is no safe way to ride on trailers and attachments that are not designed to carry passengers; there is a huge risk of falling, being thrown off or being crushed by loads that shift and fall," Dr Beer said.

"Attachments, including trailers, are vital pieces of equipment on farms but like any tool, they should only be used for the task they have been designed for.

"WorkSafe can and will take action against employers who are not taking the risks seriously and putting lives at risk."

In 2019, hop grower Neville Victor Handcock was convicted and fined $130,000 after a worker died when he fell from a trailer towed by an out-of-control tractor at Myrrhee in the state's north-east in 2017.

Recommended ways to control risks when using trailers and attachments:

  • Never ride on attachments, including trailers, that are not specifically designed to carry passengers.
  • If the attachment is designed to carry people, such as for planting or vegetable harvesting, it must provide the same level of protection as the operator from hazards, in particular safe work platforms with handrails and guarding to reduce the risk of falls, ejection and entanglement.
  • If the attachment is not designed to carry people, such as a fruit bin trailer, areas where there is the ability to ride on the trailer should be eliminated as far as reasonably practicable.
  • Ensure workers have a safe mode of transport to access work locations and, where that is not available or the distance permits, workers walk to and from such locations.
  • Ensure workers receive appropriate induction, training and supervision on the work they are to be involved in and the equipment to be used. 
  • Implement an effective communication system between vehicle operators and workers around them.