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Agricultural workbook

1. Agricultural mobile plant safety


1. Facts

Mobile plant is the number one cause of occupational deaths on rural properties. One in every five deaths is due to the operator falling or climbing off a moving item of mobile plant and being run over by the plant or attached machinery.

There is no strict definition of mobile plant in occupational safety and health legislation. However, mobile plant can be described as any machine that is self propelled and controlled by an operator.

In a rural situation it includes:

  • tractors;
  • earthmoving machinery, dozers, graders and similar;
  • headers;
  • self propelled spray units;
  • forklifts and multi-tool carriers; and
  • mobile cranes.

2. Reducing the risk

Regularly check for hazards related to mobile plant, attached implements and field conditions. Hazard areas include mechanical parts, untrained or poorly trained operators, by-standers, work procedures, unsafe jacking, climatic conditions, chemicals used and uneven terrain.

Keep a record of hazards identified and make sure they are assessed and controlled. Once a potential hazard has been identified, assess the likelihood and severity of an injury or hazardous incident occurring and take steps to minimise or control the risk.

3. General safety tips

  • Read the safety manual and follow procedures especially safe maintenance and jacking procedures.
  • Make sure the operator is properly trained and competent for each task.
  • Ensure a roll-over protective structure or ROPS cab is fitted to mobile plant that could over-turn.
  • Fit and use a seat belt on mobile plant with ROPS.
  • Never carry passengers unless the mobile plant is fitted with ROPS and has a separate passenger seat and seatbelt inside the protective zone of the ROPS.
  • Where a front end loader attachment is fitted to an agricultural tractor, ensure a falling objects protective structure (FOPS) is fitted.
  • If there is a risk from falling objects, fit a FOPS.
  • Have an up-to-date maintenance schedule.
  • Never work under any raised item of plant unless adequate stands or supports are in place.
  • Keep all guards in place, including master guards, the power take off (PTO) shaft and the power input coupling (PIC).
  • Wear hearing protection if machinery is noisy as not all cabs are sound reduced.
  • Keep children and bystanders away from the plant and ensure clear all round visibility.

4. Operating mobile plant

  • Always mount and dismount mobile plant from the left side to avoid accidental activation of controls.
  • Adjust the seating so all controls are safely and comfortably reached.
  • Only ever attempt to start mobile plant from the operators position. Many incidents occur because the person has attempted to start the plant while standing on the ground.
  • Operate at speeds to retain control over unexpected events.
  • Reduce speeds before turning or applying brakes.
  • Watch out for ditches and other ground conditions that may result in loss of control.
  • Where possible reverse up steep slopes for greater safety.
  • Engage the clutch gently at all times, especially when going uphill or towing.
  • Use as wide wheel track as possible on hillsides and sloping ground.
  • Descend hillsides and slopes cautiously, in low gear, using the engine as a brake.
  • Never leave the engine running unattended.
  • Ensure the park brake is effective and applied before dismounting.
  • Always remove the ignition key when the plant is not in use.
  • Never leave mobile plant in a position where it could roll.
  • Never mount or dismount moving plant.
  • Take breaks regularly when working long hours.
  • Ensure people operating a forklift have a forklift licence.
  • When parking always lower hydraulic equipment.

5. Towing implements

  • Fit attachments according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Consult the safety manual.
  • Always attach implements to the draw bar or the mounting points provided.
  • Never alter, modify or raise the height of the draw bar unless provided for in the safety manual.
  • Regularly check safety pins on implements to ensure they are not worn.
  • Never hitch above the centre line of the rear axle, (high hitch).
  • Never adjust or perform work on implements while they are in motion.
  • Never attach PTO implements unless guarded.
  • When parking always lower the three-point linkage.
  • Always ensure that the mobile plant is suitable for the task.

6. Avoiding strain injury

When first operating mobile plant, make sure the seating is safe and comfortable. Check the seat height, depth, back rest height and angle, forward and backward movement, seat tilt, vibration absorbing suspension and that the padding is firm and partial pivoting if you have to spend long periods looking behind.

Assess the mobile plant to ensure that it has no slip, trip and fall hazards ie. low steps, secure handgrips, adequate access, sufficient cab space and a safe mounting platform.

7. Safe movement of mobile plant

Vehicle hazards may occur during:

  • pedestrian movement;
  • vehicles and mobile plant reversing and manoeuvring;
  • loading and unloading operations;
  • hitching and unhitching of attachments;
  • mounting and dismounting;
  • securing of loads; and
  • maintenance work.

The law requires the movement and speed of vehicles and mobile plant to be managed in a way that minimises the risk of injury to operators and pedestrians. Vehicle access around the property should be:

  • wide enough for the largest vehicle;
  • one way if possible, with adequate passing space around slow or stationary vehicles;
  • clearly sign-posted to indicate hazards or restrictions;
  • well surfaced and drained; and
  • free from excessive gradients.

8. ROPS and FOPS

Occupational safety and health law contains requirements that make ROPS or FOPS compulsory for nearly all tractors and mobile plant. Regulations require that ROPS or FOPS (as appropriate) and seat belts are fitted to:

  • All tractors between 800 and 1500 kilograms and manufactured after 1980; and
  • All earthmoving machinery manufactured after 1989.

ROPS and FOPS made especially for older tractors and earthmoving equipment are available through farm machinery dealers and can be fitted easily.

9. Requirements for PTO guarding

Power out put coupling (POC) guard – is generally known as the master guard. The guard must be permanently attached to the tractor. It may be movable, but capable of being returned to and held securely in position when the tractor is in use.

Implement power input coupling (PIC) guard – the guard must be permanently attached to the implement. It may be movable, but capable of being returned to and held securely in position when in use. There must be no ‘nipping point’ where body parts or clothing can be caught.

Power take off (PTO) shaft guard – the guard must extend into the tractor POC guard area and the implement PIC area the maximum practical distance. The guard may be of a rotating or non-rotating type. For non-rotating type guards a means of restraining the guard must be provided.

10. Licensing requirements for industrial lift truck, forklift truck and multi purpose tool carriers

Under the National Licensing Standard, since 1 October 2007, licences are required for the operation of forklifts equipped with a mast, and when a multi purpose tool carrier is configured as described below.

  • Non-slewing mobile crane (greater than three tonne) with a boom and/or jib.
  • Elevating work platform with operating controls in the basket and the boom length has a capacity of 11 metres or more.

11. Duty of care

The person who employs operators of multipurpose machines, or has control of the workplace where multipurpose machines are operated, has duties under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. These duties include providing information, instruction training and supervision necessary to ensure operators can perform their work in such a manner that they are not exposed to hazards. To fulfil this obligation an appropriate risk assessment must be done to determine the additional information, instruction, training and supervision on the various attachment(s) fitted to any multipurpose machines which must be provided to the operator. This must occur even though the operator may be the holder of a relevant class of licence for high risk work.

12. Further information

Further information about how forklift operators are affected by the National Licensing Standard can be found here.

Commission for Occupational Safety and Health Guidance notes:

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