2 min read

Worker killed by recoiled tow chain

NT WorkSafe has issued a safety alert following an incident where a worker was fatally injured by a recoiled tow chain.

The worker had been operating an excavator to tow another excavator that had broken down. The chain was attached to the chassis of the excavator being towed and to the quick clamp of the excavator being driven. When the chain broke, it recoiled and struck the worker, who was in the cabin.

NT WorkSafe says the following factors may have contributed to the incident:

  • a risk assessment had not been completed and safe work procedures were not developed for the recovery of the broken down excavator;
  • the chain used may not have been suitable for towing;
  • some links in the chain showed signs of wear and damage;
  • the quick clamp on the excavator, where the chain was attached, was raised at the height of the cabin; and
  • the excavator had previously been vandalised and the cabin glass was missing.

When conducting a similar operation, the regulator says that operators must:

  • conduct a risk assessment before starting work;
  • consider covering the recovery equipment with a damper to absorb most of the energy in the equipment and reduce the risk of recoil from failure;
  • consider the use of recovery tow strops instead of chains when recovering any vehicle or equipment;
  • if using chains (including accessories such as hooks and shackles):
  • determine what you can use the equipment for by checking for any identification markings and referring to the manufacturer’s product guide;
  • consult the manufacturer’s information, which will provide the safe working load limit (WLL) of the chain and accessories, and will inform you if the equipment is suitable for how you want to use it;
  • check the identification markings to see whether the chain complies with the mechanical properties and testing requirements for a specific Australian Standard;
  • make sure the weight of the object you are towing is within the WLL of the chain used; and
  • inspect the chains before use for signs of damage or wear, and do not use chains with damaged links;
  • refer to the excavator’s operating manual for appropriate attachment points for towing;
  • avoid attachment points that are in line with the cabin or the operator; and
  • if your risk assessment has identified the potential for objects penetrating the cabin, consider installing cabin protective guards to provide an additional level of protection for the operator.

Find further information on NT WorkSafe’s website.

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