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22 December, 2021

Un-bog the safe way

Following the tragedy of another fatal farming accident in recent weeks, it’s become more important than ever to utilise safe farming practises.

By Emily Middleton

With recent rains, farmers are finding themselves getting headers and tractors bogged more often than not.

Geoff Kiehne, unit commander of Gilgandra SES, has become aware of a number of events where people have either suffered very serious injuries or fatalities, as a result of vehicle recovery operations that have gone wrong.

“Sadly, as far as I’m aware, they’re all preventable,” said Mr Kiehne.

There are a few key points to remember when uncovering a bogged vehicle.


Recovery of bogged vehicles and machinery is a dangerous operation, and it is no place for children or bystanders.

Apart from those absolutely necessary, for example vehicle or winch operators, all others should be a minimum of one and a half times the length of the tow rope/chain away. Always at 90 degrees to the axis of the tow line – never at either end.

Mr Kiehne explained that if the rope or chain between the two vehicles was to snap, the kinetic energy is going to take the object back towards the vehicles, rather than out to the side. He also explained that if there are pieces of metal on the recovery rope or chain that break off, it’s likely to fly off as well, and the kinetic energy will force those parts to go through windows, doors, and sometimes people.

“The whole thing is that if the people are one and a half times the length of the rope or chain at 90 degrees to it, then that’s the safest spot. So if it snaps in the centre, and flies, it’s only going to go a few degrees off the straight line, because the energy’s going to take it in a straight line,” said Mr Kiehne.

Sometimes, the recovery rope or chain may not break, but the point on the vehicle where it’s been attached to will. This is not uncommon.

“I have seen a particular incident where it actually pulled a piece of the vehicle off and flung it. So, a piece of razor-sharp metal had flown and it’s like a little 150-gram cannon ball with serrated edges. Now in that case, it went through a toolbox on the back of vehicle, through the back window, and hit a person on the back of the neck.”


This leads to the next point:

Always ensure the tow rope or chain is attached to the vehicle using an approved tow point only.

The operator’s manual for a vehicle, usually highlight what is a safe and unsafe anchor point. Never place a chain, rope, or strap over a ‘tow ball’ on a vehicle as a tow point.

The shock loading can cause the tow ball to snap off and become a ‘cannon ball’ with potentially fatal results. Under the front of the vehicle, on most vehicles, you’ll notice there’s a little link or loop. People assume that this is safe to hook a rope onto to tow a vehicle out. These are not. They are not rated. These loops are merely tie down points when the cars were shipped here from overseas.

“Those pieces of metal can just simply pull off, and of course they have kinetic energy, and they fly,” said Mr Kiehne.

A common mistake is assuming that the tow ball is an approved tow point for vehicle recovery, and you just loop over the tow ball. However, when chock loaded, it can become another 150-gram cannon ball that can go through the metal part of vehicles.

An alternative option to swap out for a tow ball is a saber alloy recovery hitch. These are an approved tow point and are rated to about 15-20 tonnes. A two ball is only approved for towing smaller loads such as trailers and boats, not for vehicle rescue operations.

Using a tow ball likely results in the ball snapping off and flying.


Metal D or bow shackles have been commonly used to attached ropes and slings to vehicles.

However, soft shackles are much safer and are usually significantly stronger.

The are now the preferred, safer option. Mr Kiehne explained that if a vehicle recovery operation was underway way with the metal D or bow shackles, and it is to snap, the force of the shackles are going to send them flying, and cause a lot of damage if they hit someone or something.

“Again, it’s like a cannon ball with tonnes and tonnes of force attached to it.”

The soft shackles, if the rope or chain snaps, will likely just fall to the ground, or if they do fly, not hold as much force.


This is also why synthetic ropes are now the preferred tow strap.

Flexible steel wire rope and steel chains are highly dangerous if they break. The modern synthetic fibre ropes and straps are generally stronger and provide for less risk is they break.

“These straps work on the idea that they are a dynamic fibre, so it stretches like an elastic band. You can hook it onto your vehicle, without any knots of twists, then to the vehicle you’re towing, and you drive off. And the idea is you have all this slack that your vehicle will stretch the strap, and literally flicks the vehicle out.”


Good quality recovery equipment is built to a standard and tested.

Always use, well maintained approved equipment. Only use recovery equipment in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.


If in doubt or untrained, seek advice. Safe work practices can prevent serious injury or a fatality.

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