Washington FACE: Tractor operator crushed by trailer


Photo of tractor.

Industry: Hop farm

Release Date: August 31, 2014

Task: Operating tractor towing trailer Incident Date: February 12, 2015
Occupation: Farm laborer Case No.: 14WA005501
Type of Incident: Tractor-related/crushed SHARP Report No.: 71-135-2015

On August 31, 2014, a 22-year-old hop farm laborer was crushed when a trailer landed on top of him. He was operating a tractor pulling a trailer when the trailer detached and came forward and landed on top of the tractor and crushed him.

This is a photo of the incident scene showing the rear of the tractor the victim was operating

Incident scene showing the rear of the
tractor that the victim was operating at
his employer's equipment storage yard
when a trailer he was towing detached
from the tractor and landed on top of the
tractor and crushed him.

This was the victim’s first season working at his employer’s hop farm. He had been employed there for six months. His job duties included hauling bales of hops from the field by operating a tractor with a trailer. On the day of the incident, he was operating a utility tractor to tow a 25-foot empty flatbed trailer from the farm’s shop to the equipment storage area. As he was moving through the level dirt yard, the trailer separated from the tractor and bounced up and overtook the tractor. The front of the trailer landed on the tractor. The victim was crushed between the trailer’s frame and the tractor’s steering wheel.

Investigators determined that the trailer was incorrectly attached to the tractor. Instead of using a hitch pin to connect the trailer’s tongue to the tractor’s hitch, a bolt was used. There was no physical evidence found at the scene to indicate that the bolt was secured at its bottom to prevent it coming loose. The tractor was found in its highest gear with the hand throttle in the lowest position (indicating that the victim was using the foot throttle to control the tractor’s speed). These two facts suggest that the tractor may have been travelling at a high rate of speed. Additionally, there was no rollover protective structure (ROPS) on the tractor. A ROPS might have provided protection to the operator when the trailer landed on the tractor.


  • Maintain in a safe condition towing connections between tractors and all equipment and remove from service if in need of repair. See WAC 296-307-07001.
  • Train employees how to safely operate tractors that they will be required to use. See WAC 296-307-08018.
  • Furnish and require employees to use any safety devices and safeguards that are needed to control recognized hazards. See WAC 296-307-045.
  • Provide a rollover protective structure (ROPS) for each employee operated tractor. See WAC 296-307-08009.
This is a photo of a flatbed trailer with hay bales

Twenty-five foot flatbed trailer that detached from the tractor and landed on top of the tractor, crushing the operator.


  • This is a photo of the bolt used to connect pin to tractor

    Bolt used as connecting pin to tractor. There was
    no evidence that the bolt was secured at the bottom
    to prevent it from coming loose.

    Develop and enforce a policy requiring tractor operators to ensure that trailers are properly connected to tractors so that they will not detach.

  • Consult and follow the towing guidance provided by the manufacturer’s operator’s manual for all tractors, trailers, implements, and equipment. Proper hitching will prevent accidental release of towed equipment.
  • Operate tractors at a safe speed when towing a trailer. Excessive speed may cause a trailer to bounce and cause the trailer connection to fail.
  • Attach trailer hitch pins to tractors so that they are always available to be used when towing any attachment.

State Wide Statistics: This was number 53 of 70 work-related fatalities in Washington State during 2014, and was number 7 of 9 agriculture-related fatalities.

*This bulletin was developed to alert employers and employees of a tragic loss of life of a worker in Washington State and is based on preliminary data ONLY and does not represent final determinations regarding the nature of the incident or conclusions regarding the cause of the fatality.

Developed by Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), WA State Department of Labor & Industries. The FACE Program is supported in part by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 5 U60 OH008487-09). For more information, contact the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program, 1-888-667-4277.

Sharp program logo

Washington state department of labor and industries logo

Publication #: 71-135-2015| August 31, 2014

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More