American Farm Bureau is celebrating Agricultural Safety Awareness Program Week March 6-12, foucsing on one area of farm safety every day. Today’s safety information covers Tractor safety.
Tractor roll-over safety
Farm tractors are essential to modern, high output agriculture. Without them, food production would fall far short of meeting our needs. Unfortunately, tractors are generally the farm machinery identified with the most injuries in crop production agriculture.
Maneuvering sometimes difficult terrain can put the tractor in precarious situations. Uneven terrain can cause a tractor to roll, putting the operator in danger.
The rollover protective structure (ROPS) and seat belt, when worn, are the two most important safety devices to protect operators from death during tractor overturns. It is important to remember the ROPS does not prevent tractor overturns. Rather, it keeps the operator from being crushed during a rollover.
When operating a tractor, remember to:
- Securely fasten your seat belt
- Avoid ditches, embankments, and holes if at all possible
- Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes, and on a questionable surface
- Stay off slopes too steep for safe operation
- Do not allow passengers
- Be sure everyone is a safe distance before moving
- Operate the tractor as smoothly as possible
- Hitch only to the drawbar and hitch points recommended by the manufacturer
- Set brakes securely when tractor is stopped and use park if available
It is critical to train young people to operate tractors properly. Beyond the tasks associated with driving, recognizing and avoiding hazards should be addressed.
Using ROPS and a seatbelt is said to prevent death or serious injury 99 percent of the time.
A PTO shaft revolving at 1000 rpm revolves 16 times in less than a second. Little wonder that driveline entanglement nearly always results in devastating inju-ry or death!
Missing or damaged shielding is the main reason for PTO entangle-ment. All shielding components must be correctly installed and properly maintained to prevent injury in case of accidental contact.
Operator awareness and constant vigilance are also crucial if PTO accidents are to be avoided. Clear safety rules must be established for everyone who works with farm machinery. Making repairs while equipment is operating, stepping over or onto revolving shafts, and wearing loose or frayed clothing are actions that set the stage for entanglement.
No shielding shortcuts
Never operate a tractor with a missing or damaged master shield. Integral shields on equipment power shafts must be kept in place and well maintained to protect against the “grabbing” action of drivelines and U-joints.
Both shaft attachment ends must be shielded. Universal joints and stub shafts need to be well covered.
Some older machines have tunnel shields over their power shafts. This design offers only limited protection. Because tunnel shield-ing is open at the bottom, clothing, shoelaces, hair, etc. can be caught by the shaft or U-joints. There is a strong case to be made for putting such equipment out of service. If it must be used, power shafts and shielding should be replaced with safer, modern components.
A PTO shaft may break or sepa-rate during operation if improperly adjusted or misused. If it does, the tractor-driven end can swing vio-lently, with potential for severe equipment damage and operator injury.
Make very sure that all replace-ment driveline components meet manufacturer specifications.
The tractor drawbar should be adjusted to the length specified in the manual for the driven ma-chine. This insures that the tele-scoping power shaft and shield will stay together when they lengthen in operation, and prevents driveline “bottoming out.”
Good PTO safety habits
Following are key considerations for preventing PTO entanglement:
- Always disengage the PTO, shut off the engine and re-move the keys before leaving the tractor seat. You can’t be injured by the PTO or other machine parts if the driveline isn’t rotating!
- Keep tractor master shields in place at all times.
- Check frequently to confirm that integral shields are in good condition. With the pow-ershaft stopped, you should be able to rotate the shield freely by hand. Look for nicks, dents or bends that could catch clothing. Damaged shields, shafts, bearings, etc. must be repaired or replaced before the machine is operat-ed.
- Never step across a rotating powershaft. Some equipment (e.g. forage wagons and blow-ers, grinder-mixers, etc.) must be operated in a stationary location where you are work-ing. Always walk around the revolving shaft. Safety devic-es are usually reliable, but could malfunction.
- Dress for safety. Wear close fitting clothes and keep long hair covered. Raggy old coats and long boot laces can easily be grabbed by rotating parts.
Tractor Safety on the Road
Farm vehicles and equipment on public roads can create safety issues. The National Ag Safety Database (NASD) has found:
- Crash fatality rates in the most rural counties are almost double the rate in urban counties
- Rural crashes are more frequent, more severe and more likely to result in death than urban crashes
- Certain types of crashes, such as those between motor vehicles and farm vehicles, are unique to rural environments, and usually involve slow moving tractors with trailing equipment and higher speed motor vehicles
- Tractors were found to be involved in the majority of crashes on roadways
- In 23% of the cases where the farm operator was issued a citation, lighting and yield violations were noted. In at least 11% of the cases where the farm operator was cited, the crash occurred in the evening and the tractor was not utilizing adequate lighting
- Most farmers believe driving their tractors on rural roads is more dangerous now than it was five years ago
- As the size of farm equipment grows, increasingly, there is a lack of space on rural roads
- Paved rural roads are often 18-20 feet wide and machinery is often over 13 feet wide
- Even though some newer machinery travels up to 45 mph, tractors generally move slower than traffic
Safety Guidelines for tractors on roadways include:
- Display the Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem on all off-road vehicles. Make sure emblems are in good condition and properly mounted
- Use proper vehicle lighting, including flashers anytime you use public roads. The American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) recommends two flashing amber lights, mounted at least 42 inches high, in both the front and rear
- In addition to flashers, use headlights and taillights a half hour before sunset until a half hour after sunrise, and whenever insufficient light or unfavorable weather conditions exist
- ASAE recommends two headlights on the front at the same level, positioned as far apart as possible, rear left and right red taillights mounted as far apart as possible, and two red reflectors visible from the rear
- Inspect hitches to verify they are sturdy and properly mounted before towing equipment or using wagons. Always use safety chains if equipped
- Be sure the engine has cooled down before fueling your tractor or farm equipment