Safety Alert – Danger of Jump-Starting Batteries

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This Alert is intended to warn employers and workers of the dangers associated with jump-starting or boosting flat batteries in powered mobile plant (eg tractors) used in agriculture.

Background

Tractors and other powered mobile plant being brought out of storage for agriculture work (eg harvesting season) may have a flat battery due to being idle for prolonged periods of time.

Recently, a worker suffered fatal crush injuries while jump-starting a tractor while in another incident, a worker sustained serious injuries while jump-starting a mower.  In both instances, the workers were positioned outside the plant which lurched forward when the engine was started.

In most circumstances a flat battery means something is wrong either with the plant, the charging system and/or the battery. In any case, jump-starting or boosting batteries is dangerous and should be avoided.

Recommended controls

Employers should ensure that employees who operate or maintain plant:

  • are instructed on how to safely service a flat battery and are provided with the operator handbook at all times
  • only start plant while seated in the driver seat (while the handbrake is engaged and the transmission is in neutral or park) and when no other person is located in the immediate vicinity of the plant
  • remove the “flat battery” and charge it with a compatible battery charger or replace with a fully charged or new battery (where possible).

Additional information

When charging batteries, there is a risk of the battery exploding. This is because batteries being charged generate and release hydrogen gas which is flammable and can ignite. To prevent an explosion, ensure there is adequate ventilation and no naked flames (including lit cigarettes or other ignition sources). Ensure employees are provided with and wear personal protective equipment (eg face and eye protection).

Employers should also ensure employees complete a pre start-up check before operating the plant, including:battery

  • oil, hydraulics, power steering, fuel and coolant
  • inflation pressures and tread wear on tyres
  • fluid leaks, structural and/or hose damage
  • steering, brakes and park brake for proper operation
  • hand controls are clearly labelled and all safety interlocks are operational
  • all guards are in place and secured
  • For tractors:
    • ensure power take-off (PTO) ¬†master guard and PTO shaft guard are fitted and in good condition
    • ensure any roll-over protective structure (ROPS) is securely fitted and structurally undamaged.

Further information

WorkSafe handbook – Safe use of tractors with attachments

Disclaimer: This Alert contains information following the WorkSafe Victoria’s inquiries into the incident at the date of this report. The information contained in this report does not necessarily reflect the final outcome of the WorkSafe’s action with respect to this incident. The WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this report is complete or up-to-date, and does not accept any liability to any person for the information in this report, or its use.

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