WorkCover issues Towing trailers Safety Alert

WorkCover NSW often releases safety alerts relating to workplace health and safety and have done so again, this time relating to safety when towing trailers.

The alert was prompted by a tragic incident that occurred in March 2013 when a worker received fatal crushing injuries when a trailer rolled forward unexpectedly, crushing him in the process.

The alert related specifically to the potential risks when towing trailers by using plant that is not specifically designed for the task but also warns that similar risks and control measures may apply to other wheeled vehicles.

Read an excerpt from the alert posted on

WorkCover NSW recently responded to an incident where a worker received fatal crush injuries after a trailer rolled forward unexpectedly.


The worker and the trailer’s owner, a visitor to the workplace, were preparing to tow the trailer with a tractor crane. The trailer’s air brake system was connected to an air receiver installed on the tractor crane, and the crane engine was started so as to build pressure in the air receiver.


The worker was connecting the trailer to the crane, when sufficient air pressure built up and released the trailer’s brakes, causing the trailer to roll forward and strike him.


Contributing factors


The incident resulted from releasing the brakes without first securing the trailer from unplanned movement. It is noted, however:


  • The worker was preparing to connect the trailer to the hook of a crane via a chain. Even if connected, the chain would only have limited the trailer movement, not prevented it.
  • The crane had been modified by adding an air receiver. There were no controls on the air receiver outlet, so once connected to the air brake system on the trailer there was no mechanism for controlling when the brakes on the trailer would release (ie they would release once the system came up to release pressure).



Similarly to other hazards which present a risk to worker safety, the hazard should be eliminated. If elimination of the hazard is not possible, those in charge should attempt substituting the hazard for a less dangerous one. Sometimes even substitution is not an option so minimisation of the hazard must be undertaken as far as possible.

It is important that the risks involved with such a hazard are assessed to determine the likelihood of workers being injured. A safe work method must be developed and workers should be trained on the safe operation of these plant and machinery and what practices should not be undertaken.

WorkCover then proceeds to suggest that plant be used for the purpose for which it has been designed, unless the person has determined that the proposed use does not increase the risk to health or safety.

Also trailers must be secured against undesired movement at all times, unless coupled to a towing unit that provides this security. If this had been done, the worker in the story above would have been alive today.

Where practicable, use plant or machinery that is designed for the task being undertaken. (This applies to all plant, machinery, equipment and even tools used in construction work).

Read the full details of the alert at