During the spring of 2004, a 36- year-old mechanic died in a tractor overturn. He was working alone in a cemetery picking up tree trimmings and removing a tree stump. He was using a narrowfront- axle (tricycle-type) farm tractor with a front-end loader. The loader was an older model with hydraulically-extendable lower links/lift arms to raise the loader bucket and its load. Side view of the overturned tractor showing the raised front-end loader with the stump secured by a log chain. He had been picking up tree limbs, removing brush piles, and working to extract a large tree stump in an area of the cemetery with sloping terrain. He used a chain saw to cut through the roots of the previously felled tree so he could hoist the old stump from the ground and place it into a nearby wagon, already partially filled with tree branches and trimmings. The tractor was aimed at an angle forward and downward across the slope, tilting to the left as he attempted to lift the heavy tree stump by raising the front-end loader. The stump was secured to the loader by a log chain around it and the loader bucket. As the loader bucket raised well above the height of the hood of the tractor, the tractor tipped onto its left side and continued to roll onto its top, stopping upside down on top of the operator. The victim was found by another worker who came to the cemetery to mow grass later in the day. The victim had been crushed between the ground and the steering wheel of the tractor and was pronounced dead at the scene. Because the loader lift arms, and therefore the loader bucket, were raised high the tractor was protected from damage in the overturn. Although there were other tractors reasonably available for the victim to use, none of them were equipped with a loader. The victim had also been drinking alcohol and this likely influenced his assessment of the equipment, loadings, terrain, and overall risk of an overturn. RECOMMENDATIONS: (1.) Tractors suitable for the task, properly equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and seat belt, configured and ballasted appropriately, should be used with a capable, properly-installed front-end loader recommended for the tractor. (2) Operators should be educated and trained to recognize and assess the risk of an overturn and the factors that contribute to an overturn. (3) Workers should not operate tractors while under the influence of alcohol or when taking medications for which doctors advise against the operation of machinery.
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