Supply and use of turf (sod) harvesters - Position paper (Revised 31 July 2017)

This paper is designed to provide information to people who supply or use hand stacking turf harvesters.

In 2014, a fatally injured worker was found on the ground between the front and rear wheels of a turf harvester being reversed.

From 1 October 2018+

  • supply and use of turf harvesters is restricted to either;
    • fully automatic, or
    • hand stacking harvesters that are fitted with measures to control the risks of persons falling off, and being run over by reversing harvester.*

SafeWork will be monitoring compliance with the requirements.

+ The date of compliance was reviewed on 31 July 2107.

* control measures are detailed below.

Control measures – Engineering

The following measurements should be used for controlling the risk of persons falling off and/or being run over by reversing harvester.

The design and installation of safety controls must be undertaken by a competent person.


Possible solutions

For automatic harvesters

For hand stacking harvesters

The Stacker falling or exiting into the path of a reversing harvester

Not applicable as there is no person at the back of the harvester

  • install guardrails   on the platform at the back
  • where   necessary, extend the rear platform backwards for stacker’s convenience
  • where   necessary, extend the rear platform to the cutter side so as to be in line   with the outer edge of the cutter
  • install reversing   cameras and rear view mirrors.

Drivers getting on or off moving harvesters (a foreseeable misuse) and being run over

Install interlocks that prevents operation of the harvester unless the driver is seated

Install platforms between the front and rear wheels and wheel guards.

People getting crushed between harvesters and objects (eg workshop wall)

Install reversing alarms and reversing cameras

Install reversing alarms and reversing cameras.

People on the paddock being hit by the harvester

Consider installing obstruction alarms

Consider installing obstruction alarms.

Example of guardrail on the back platform

Examples of a platform between the front and rear wheels and wheel guards

Before and after fitting guard rails

Control measures – Systems of work, Supervision and Training

In addition to the above controls, you must also provide appropriate systems of work, supervision and training to control the risk of persons falling off, and being run over by reversing harvester.

  • implement a safe system of work that includes provisions for;
    • the use of the harvester in line with the manufacturers recommendations
    • the operator to remain in control of the harvester at all times while it is in use
    • avoidance of reversing unless necessary
    • the stacker to depart the harvester, before it reverses, to move into a safe position where they can be seen by the operator, unless fall prevention measure are installed
    • the operator to verify the stacker is in a safe location before reversing
    • the operator to monitor the travel path while reversing
    • the operator to stop and respond to any obstruction alarm
    • prohibition of both drivers and stackers from getting on or off moving plant, even when wheel guards and platforms between the wheels are fitted
  • provide training and supervision on all control measures, including the safe systems of work, until all persons are competent in their roles
  • consult with workders and regularly monitor the effectiveness of the control measures, systems of work, training and supervision.

Your legal obligation

The Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation requires managing risks so far as is reasonably practicable, either by eliminating them, or if this is not possible, by minimising them in accordance with the hierarchy of control.

The hierarchy only allows lower order controls (such as administrative controls) when higher order controls (substitution, isolation and engineering controls) are not reasonably practicable.

Administrative controls depend on human behaviour, for example safe work procedures that direct a person to stand at a particular location or perform task in a particular order are administrative controls.

More information


A hand stacking turf harvester is a harvester that requires a person to manually stack turf or travel at a place on the harvester other than the driver’s cabin.

An automatic harvester is a harvester that stacks turf automatically, requiring only one person to drive the machine.

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