Recovery of bogged farm machinery

With floods and significant rain events happening at the moment, WorkSafe wants to remind farmers and agricultural contractors of the very real dangers associated with the recovery of bogged farm machinery.

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Published: 09 November 2022

Background

There have been recent fatal incidents caused by attempted recovery of bogged farm machinery without proper safety precautions.

Safety issues

When attempting to recover bogged farm machinery such as utes, tractors, harvesters and other equipment, there is a risk of chains, cables, shackles or attachment points breaking and whipping back to strike machinery operators or bystanders.

Recommended ways to control risks

Avoid getting bogged

Avoiding getting bogged is the safest way to eliminate the risk:

  • Assess ground conditions before entering areas where boggy ground may be found, for example inspect on foot or in a lighter vehicle.
  • Tell contractors and employees where boggy areas are, for example by using maps.
  • Create exclusion zones to prevent access to boggy areas, for example by geo-fencing or erecting temporary barricades.

Assess the situation prior to recovery

Before attempting to recover bogged farm machinery, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I leave the farm machinery where it is and recover it later? For example, when conditions are drier or in the morning when you’re less fatigued.
  • Can I use traction aids, bog mats, tyre chains, lower tyre pressure or reduce the weight of the bogged machinery to enable the vehicle to be driven out?
  • Can I dig out the farm machinery?
  • Can I obtain the services of a specialist heavy vehicle recovery company?

Recovering bogged machinery

If you are going to attempt to recover the machine, the following factors should be considered:

  • Is it possible to dig some of the bogged farm machinery out to make the recovery easier?
  • If using a recovery vehicle, is it suitable for the task? 
  • Is the bogged farm machinery still running to assist in the recovery?
  • “Dead” towing should only be performed by specialist recovery contractors. 

Reduce or remove the weight

  • Consider if weight can be removed from the bogged farm machinery before attempting to recover it, for example disconnect attachments, unload/drain bins.

Use suitable recovery equipment

  • Only use straps, chains, shackles, winches and other recovery equipment that is rated for the weight and type of work being undertaken.
  • Only use the equipment necessary and avoid joining different recovery equipment
  • Don’t use steel shackles to join recovery equipment eg. joining snatch straps could cause these to become a projectile
  • Ensure recovery ropes, chains, strops and snatch straps are weighed down with dampeners, eg. purchased dampeners, blankets, mats, old tyres
  • 4WD recovery equipment may not be appropriate for recovering larger farm machinery.

Minimise the people in the recovery area

Ensure there is a means of communication between the machinery operators, for example a phone or UHF radio

Use appropriate anchor points

  • Only attach to anchor points on vehicles and machinery that have been designed by the manufacturer for the purpose of towing.
  • Anchor points may only be suitable if the bogged equipment is able to be driven to assist in the towing.
  • NEVER attach the tow line to the three point linkage of a tractor, or to any other point above the rear axle line, as doing so increases the risk of the tractor rearing up and rolling over backwards.
  • The recovery point on the front of farm machinery may only be strong enough to tow the equipment without the additional load connected to the bogged farm machinery.

Consider where (if any) weight can be added to the recovery vehicle

Using different towing directions to recover bogged machinery

Consider which direction to tow the bogged machinery

Consider how the recovery vehicle will be positioned

For example can it be positioned in line with the bogged mobile plant?

Place a dampener onto the recovery equipment

Placing a dampener onto the recovery equipment should cause the equipment to fall to the ground if it breaks, rather than fly towards one of the vehicles.

Summary

It is important to take the time to assess the situation before any attempt is made to recover a piece of bogged powered mobile plant. Do not go ahead with the recovery if the operation is not going to plan, or the available equipment is not sufficient to complete the task safely.  

Start with the lowest risk recovery option first - only if that fails should a recovery option of higher risk be considered. As the risk involved increases, the risk controls should also be increased.

Recovery method
(listed from low to high risk)

Example risk controls

Use of traction aids, bog mats, tyre chains, lowering tyre pressures

Ensure mobile plant is OFF when other people are near powered equipment. Establish an exclusion zone.

Reduce the weight – disconnect attachments, unload /drain bins

Dig out the mobile plant

Use a winch

Place a dampener onto winch cable and remove bystanders from the vicinity

Use a tow strap or rope

DO NOT shock load the tow strap/rope/chain - take up tension in the tow line slowly. Place a dampener onto strap or chain and exclude bystanders

Use a tow chain (preferably use a tow strap rather than a chain)

Use a "Snatch" strap

Minimise run up. Place a dampener onto strap and exclude bystanders.

Legal duties

Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. They must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • provide and maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health
  • ensure that persons other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer’s conduct

Employers must also provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk associated with plant.