Learning the Lessons

Employee crushed by reversing manure spreader

A female farm worker was crushed under the wheel of a manure spreader which was being reversed between a building and a retaining wall for a distance of about 10m.

The driver was asked by the farm worker to move the tractor and spreader to allow access for cattle into a yard. He agreed to move it and intended to reverse into another yard. When he got into the tractor, the farm worker was standing by the nearside of the tractor. He started the engine and looked over his right shoulder and reversed. After four or five metres, he heard a scream and found the employee lying under the nearside of the spreader in front of the wheel. A witness had apparently seen the farm worker fall under the wheel.

The ground was very muddy and the soles of the boots worn by the farm worker had become smooth. The tractor was large and not fitted with rear view mirrors as it was not used on a highway.

Both managers and employees were complacent about the risks in reversing equipment and believed that if everyone ‘took care’, no accidents would happen. If mirrors had been fitted, it would have been much easier for the driver to monitor both sides of the vehicle while reversing. Risks would not have been taken if managers had been more positive and taken steps to reduce them in the first place.

Dumper truck driver killed

The driver of a 15 tonne earth moving dumper truck was killed when he reversed over the edge of a quarry next to a landfill site. The landfill site operators contracted a specialist earth moving company to remove 80,000 cubic metres of clay from the quarry to cover the top of the landfill site. The edge of the site was demarcated by a bund wall topped by a chain link fence.

After loads were tipped on the landfill site, the bull dozer was used to spread the clay, working towards the quarry edge. This meant the height of the bund wall was reduced. Towards the end of the contract the dumper truck drivers were reversing to about 30 metres from the edge of the site, at which point the slope was about 10 degrees.

During one of these reversals, the dumper truck continued towards the edge, over what remained of the bund wall and through the fence. Towards the bottom of the slope the load unit was wrenched off the chasis which then overturned several times. The driver died of injuries received during the decent. Investigation showed that:

On three of the four wheels on the rear two axles the brake shoes were incorrectly adjusted so that no or little contact was made with the drum; An air leak on the front axle disc brakes resulted in loss of braking effort within a few seconds of brake application;

An oil/water emulsion which would corrode seals was found in the air reservoir tanks.

No formal system of routine maintenance had been set up by the company who relied entirely on notes made by their fitter in his diary to record when servicing was due. Routine maintenance and fault reporting systems are essential, especially when plant is being used on sites away from the company’s base. Also, bund walls of sufficient height to stop such vehicles should be maintained.

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