Tractor maintenance

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the safe operation of powered mobile plant on farms.



A 65-year-old farmer has been killed when his tractor reversed over him.

The tractor motor was running and in neutral while the farmer attached the hay rake to the back of the tractor. While the tractor was running, the shuttle gear selection lever inside the cabin was knocked from neutral to reverse, running over the farmer.

The investigation identified that the tractor was an older piece of machinery, with a worn shuttle shift gear selection lever.

Safety Issues

Agriculture makes up only 2% of Victoria's workforce, but 14% of workplace deaths. Most deaths on farms (about 75%) involve farm vehicles.

Tractors and other powered mobile plant are often involved in these incidents. Every year, many people are killed, and many more are seriously injured from accidents involving tractors. These risks increase with the use of tractor attachments. You must eliminate or reduce risks. Measures include addressing the safe use of attachments, safe work systems and correct vehicle selection and maintenance.

Research shows that for each year of the farm machinery's age, the risk of injury when using it increases You need to regularly inspect and maintain farm machinery to ensure it is safe for use.

Do not become complacent. Always keep risks front of mind.

Recommended ways to controlling risks

Many tractor-related deaths and injuries involve tractor run-over. These are often a result of poor practices.

Select safe tractors (powered mobile plant) that include features such as:

  • Interlocking functions are provided to ensure the tractor or other powered mobile plant is prevented from moving when an operator is not in control. These can include a combination of seat, handbrake, seatbelt and gear selector interlocks to prevent unintended movement.
  • Check that steps, rails and guarding to ensure that when the operator steps off the tractor they are outside the rear wheel track.

When leaving tractors you should ensure it is left in a safe condition by:

  • Parking in a safe location (including on a flat level ground where practicable).
  • Ensure the gearbox is in park or neutral.
  • Ensure the handbrake is always applied.
  • Attachments, such as front end loaders, are grounded.

Regular tractor maintenance and repair should include:

  • Inspections and schedule maintenance are conducted by a competent person regularly, in accordance with the operator's manual or at least annually and prior to seasonal use. Maintenance schedules should increase as the tractor ages.
  • Routine maintenance and adjusting of the brakes and brake controls to ensure they are effective for all terrain and strong enough to restrain movement of the tractor.
  • Routine maintenance of the shuttle shift gear selector mechanisms on tractors to prevent accidental selection.

Legal Duties

As a farmer you may be self-employed, employ people, and/or manage or control a farm. You have responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, which include ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • You provide and maintain a farm that is a safe working environment without risks to the health of your employees and contractors.
  • Where you can't eliminate risks to health and safety, you reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • You provide information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and contractors to enable them to perform their work safely and without risks to health.
  • Your farm activities don't expose other persons, for example, family or visitors, to health and safety risks.
  • That people, including people making deliveries on the farm, can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health.
  • You consult with your employees and contractors on occupational health and safety topics that relate to your workplace and directly affect them.

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