Farmer crushed and killed by rotating rock-picker

WorkSafe is reminding farmers to manage the risk of death or serious injury caused by tractor attachments.



A 75 year-old farmer was killed while removing a large rock stuck in a rock picker attached to a tractor.

Once the rock was dislodged, residual power in the hydraulic lines caused the machine's rotating parts to move, crushing the farmer.

Safety issues

Agriculture makes up only 2 per cent of Victoria's workforce, but 14 per cent of workplace deaths. About 75 per cent of these deaths involve farm machinery.

Tractors and their attachments are some of the most dangerous pieces of machinery on farms. In recent years, many people have been killed or seriously injured in incidents involving attachments.

Tractors supply power to attachments via the PTO and hydraulic systems, causing mechanisms to rotate and move. If safety precautions aren’t followed, these movements can lead to a risk of:

  • entanglement
  • crushing
  • amputation

Recommended ways to control risks

It's crucial to eliminate or minimise the risk of crushing, entanglement and amputation from tractor attachments.

Normally the operator is protected from these risks when they are seated in the tractor seat.

The potential danger arises when the operator gets off the tractor while:

  • the PTO is engaged
  • the engine is still on

Or the operator attempts to troubleshoot while:

  • hydraulic systems are under pressure
  • residual power in the hydraulic lines are not drained prior to troubleshooting

To control the risks, the operator should disengage the PTO, isolate hydraulic systems, drain any residual power in the hydraulic lines and shut off the tractor engine before leaving the seat.

Other ways to control the risk may include:

  • fitting the tractor with an operator presence switch in the tractor seat
  • fitting the tractor with an interlock system that shuts down the tractor engine when the operator leaves the seat while the PTO is engaged

Tractor maintenance and repair

As the tractor provides the power to the attachment, it's important that the safety systems and controls function correctly.

Inspections and scheduled maintenance should be conducted by a competent person:

  • as often as the operator's manual states
  • before seasonal use

Routine maintenance should include:

  • ensuring that interlock systems function correctly and are not bypassed
  • adjusting of the brakes and brake controls to ensure they are effective for all terrain and strong enough to restrain movement of the tractor
  • maintenance of the shuttle shift gear selector to prevent accidental selection

Maintenance should happen more often as the tractor and attachments age.

Attachment maintenance and repair

Inspection and scheduled maintenance of attachments should be done in line with the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure they operate correctly.

Trying to fix attachments or troubleshoot in the field increases the risk of serious or fatal incidents.

Legal duties

As a farmer you may be self-employed, have employees, or manage and control a farm. No matter which one you are, you have responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Examples of these duties include:

  • Ensuring your farm is a safe working environment without risks to the health of your employees. Employees include contractors and labour hire workers.
  • Ensuring you provide and maintain safe plant and systems of work.
  • Making sure farm activities don't expose anyone to health and safety risks. This may include your family, other workers, farm visitors and contractors.
  • Ensure people can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health.
  • Ensuring that everyone operating a tractor is provided with information, instruction, training and supervision so they can do their job safely.
  • Report notifiable incidents to WorkSafe.

You may also have specific duties related to mobile plant under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. Examples of these duties include:

  • Eliminating or reducing the risks associated with powered mobile plant.
  • Ensuring operator protective devices are used.
  • Ensuring no one other than the operator rides on powered mobile plant unless they have the same level of protection as the operator.

Further information