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On The Farm

Tips for a Safer Tractor

Tractors are one of your most valuable assets, used daily to keep your farm thriving. But, as beneficial as they are to keeping your operation running smoothly, they also stand to be one of the biggest risks. That’s why it’s important to ensure everyone who gets behind the wheel knows what they’re doing. Take a look at these important tractor safety tips so everyone's aware of how to operate a tractor safely.

Your Tractor’s Pre-operating Checklist

Share this list with your employees and new hires to be sure they’re familiar with the inspection process. Offer hands-on training to be sure that they all know the physical locations of your tractors parts and components. Take time to discuss the purpose and location of all gauges, controls and other indicators as an introduction. If any issues or problems are found, be sure your workers know who to contact.

  • Start with the owner’s manual. Bring your trainees out to the tractor with the manual and go through it with them.
  • Check the reflectors, tires and safety shields.
  • Inspect the power take-off by rotating it manually — before starting the engine.
  • Be sure employees new to working with tractors understand the risks and dangers related with the power take-off.
  • Have the driver wear snug fitting clothes, free of drawstrings or other entanglement risks.
  • Instruct trainees to never step across a moving power take-off.
  • Replace safety decals if they’re no longer readable.
  • Check the tires: air pressure and treads.
  • Review the mounting of the rollover protection system’s (ROPS) bolts and hardware. 
  • Tractors have a high center of gravity because of the work they’re designed to do which makes them very prone to rolling over. Don’t operate a tractor that doesn’t have a ROPS installed.
  • Inspect the guards and tire safety shields, verifying that they’re in place and working correctly.
  • Check your fluids and look under the tractor for leaks.
  • Fuel up.
  • Look for loose electrical connections. Rusty and corroded wiring too.
  • Inspect the lights, flashing lights and warning lights.
  • Be sure you’ve got a slow moving vehicle (SMV) sign installed on the back, with sound reflective ability, and that it’s wiped down each time a driver gets on the tractor.

Getting Your Tractor Started

After the physical inspection is complete, stress to trainees the importance of being in good physical and mental shape before starting the tractor. Here’s a great safety resource for important details on reducing tractor-related accidents. Now it’s time to consider the job ahead and get personal protection equipment if necessary. Here’s what they’ll need to know next.

  • Apply sunscreen. A day in the field, unprotected from the sun, can cause serious sunburn.
  • Hearing protection should be worn if the operator will be alone in the field. If others will be out there as well, the operator will need to be able to hear workers and should not wear hearing protection.
  • Demonstrate how to safely get on and off the tractor. Exit the tractor by going down backwards, like you would when climbing down a ladder and always maintain three points of contact.
  • Watch the weather. Conditions can take a turn at any moment, so think having a weather radio in each tractor, or have your workers download and install a weather app that will send alerts when the weather turns.
  • Training new staff on balancing and ballast loading can be tricky. Be sure each tractor driver knows how much weight to load for each implement in your inventory.
  • Start the tractor only after the vehicle is in neutral and the emergency brake is applied.
  • Ideally, start the tractor outdoors. Well-ventilated garages are another good option.
  • Be sure they only use the keyed ignition when starting up the tractor. Other ways are dangerous.
  • While the tractor’s warming up, trainees should get in the habit of looking around the tractor for children, obstacles or pets that may be in the area.

Working Safely on the Tractor

It’s best for new drivers to get behind-the-wheel instruction by an expert operator. Training should take place on a flat field or lawn without implements when starting out. Once comfortable with the basics, move on to showing trainees how to install and hook up implements.

  • Firmly attach the seat belt.
  • Always start and stop the tractor slowly.
  • Drive slowly and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Test the brakes each time the tractor’s put in to motion after start up.
  • Be sure tractor drivers tell their supervisor where they’ll be going and when they’re expected to return.
  • Use cell phones or two-way radios to communicate during the day to report progress or issues.
  • Upon arriving on site where the tractor will work, train the driver to park the tractor and walk the area, keeping an eye out for holes, ditches, boulders or other problems, noting areas that will need attention later.
  • Never allow drivers to take along a passenger. Remember: one seat belt, one person.
  • Avoid driving the tractor on steep hillsides.
  • Always turn at slow speeds.
  • Avoid driving the tractor too close to the edge of the road side or shoulder.

Post-operation Tractor Notes

With time and practice, new tractor drivers will gain confidence and become more familiar with the tractor. Remember to check in with your tractor drivers on occasion and see if they’ve got any questions or concerns. Here are a few things to consider after the driver’s brought the tractor to its parking spot.

  • First, disengage the power take-off. Then, turn off the tractor’s engine. Next, set the brake. Lastly, remove the key before getting off the tractor. This practice will protect the driver from entanglement when servicing the tractor and helps to ensure that no one else can start the tractor during down time.
  • Never leave a running tractor unattended — always shut it down before you leave the seat.
  • Let the tractor cool down before filling up to reduce the risk of gas fumes igniting. Don’t add coolant to the radiator when the engine is hot.

Following these steps and teaching your employees how to safely work with tractors can help reduce the risk of tractor-related accidents. After all, operating your tractor safely will help you grow your farm to its fullest potential. Once you’ve put these ideas into action, take a few moments and reach out to your American Family Insurance agent to be sure you’ve got the coverage your operation needs. Your going to feel great knowing your staff is well-trained and that your valued investments are protected.

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Related Topics: Farm Safety , Farm Insurance