Farm Laborer Run Over by Tractor With Broken Parking Brake, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 17MI142
Report Date: 12/20/2019


In summer 2017, a male farm laborer in his 40s died when he was run over by a Deutz 3006 farm tractor. The decedent was operating the Deutz 3006 low profile orchard tractor pulling a 16-foot long, 6-foot wide single axle trailer with a steel frame and wood surface loaded with fruit lugs and ladders on a two-track path behind the packing barn. The two-track ran downhill south to north with a slight grade. On the west side of the path were tall weeds, brush and trees. The east side of the two-track was grass and then a wooded area. The farm owner had met with the decedent and two other farm hands at approximately 8:00 a.m. and gave them their work assignments; the decedent and a coworker to pick plums and the farm manager to tend to the irrigation system. The farm manager and the coworker left in the farm manager’s car and drove to the plum orchard. The decedent was to bring the tractor and trailer with the lugs and ladders to them. His two coworkers waited about 15 minutes, and when he did not arrive, they drove back to the packing barn to look for him. One of the coworkers saw the tractor, which was still running and in neutral positioned at an angle in the tall grass against a tree on the west side of the two-track path; the trailer was positioned on the two-track path. The coworker looked and called for the decedent. Not seeing him or hearing a response, the coworker got on the tractor and moved it backward onto the two-track. The coworker felt the rear tire of the tractor rise and then the decedent’s body came into view. Emergency response and the owner were summoned. The decedent was pronounced dead at the scene. When the owner arrived at the scene, he found a ladder on the trailer tongue.


  • Tractor’s emergency brake was non-functional.
  • The tractor had been difficult to start that morning and the decedent left the tractor running and in neutral while on a downhill slope when he dismounted.
  • Inadequate tractor parking procedures.
  • Unsecured orchard ladders and fruit lugs were placed at front of trailer.
  • Decedent had difficulty backing up the tractor and trailer.

MIFACE investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Ensure tractor operators utilize proper tractor shut-off procedures prior to exiting the tractor seat.
  • Inspect and maintain equipment to ensure it is in good operating condition.
  • Ensure tractor operators are trained and demonstrate competency before allowing individual to operate the tractor.
  • Establish and enforce rules for equipment transport on towed trailers.

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Page last reviewed: April 28, 2020