'Caught off guard' in Tas tractor fatality

·2-min read

A 75-year-old man crushed to death by a tractor while helping a neighbour feed cattle in rural Tasmania was likely caught off-guard by how quickly it rolled.

Robert Norman Selby, who grew up on regional properties, had more than 50 years' experience driving tractors on farms in various weather and terrain.

He was attempting to dislodge hay from a spike on the tractor at a property in Glengarry in the state's north on August 3, 2018.

Coroner Andrew McKee accepted findings of a police investigation that determined Mr Selby was likely standing next to the tractor when he engaged its gears, causing it to move forward.

"Mr Selby has been caught out by the speed (the) tractor has moved forward, due to it being in a higher gear than expected," said the report, published on Monday.

"The rear left wheel has run over him."

A neighbour, who was working with Mr Selby, saw the accident and ran to the farmhouse to alert her husband because the pair didn't have phones with them.

Mr Selby, who indicated to her that he would be alright, died after paramedics arrived.

His wife of 43 years told the coroner Mr Selby was always a very cautious tractor driver.

"Even when he drove our car he was very attentive. He wouldn't move unless everybody had their seatbelts on," she wrote.

"If a tractor was faulty, he would never get on it if he knew about it. He wasn't a person that would take risks."

A transport safety investigator noted there were two safety issues with the tractor.

The tractor's neutral switch, which stops the starter motor engaging when a low gear is selected, had been disabled.

A pin that locks both brake pedals so the operator can operate both rear brakes simultaneously was not present.

The coroner called on tractor owners to consider retrofitting Safe Tractor Access Platforms, which are designed to stop people falling under the back wheel if the machinery moves unexpectedly.

However, he stopped short of making it a recommendation, noting WorkSafe Tasmania said such a directive was problematic because it could send a message it is appropriate to get on or off a tractor while it is in motion.

The coroner recommended all operators comply with WorkSafe Tasmania tractor safety guidelines.

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