Farm Equipment Safety: 8 Tips
High-tech, complex equipment makes your farm run much more efficiently. Unfortunately, the risk of injury can sometimes increase with the rise in efficiency — when larger, more dangerous implements are getting the job done. Before using any type of farm machinery, take these tips into consideration to keep everyone safe.
1. Read the Owner’s Manual
Although thumbing through a never-ending manual for your brand-new cultivator might sound boring, it’s crucial for you to use it correctly. The manual is full of necessary information on how to keep the machine in working order, how to operate it safely, how to store it and more.
Even if you’re a seasoned veteran of operating the equipment you’re using, no two models of machinery are exactly alike. Read the manual thoroughly and always keep it in your tractor.
2. Check All Safety Systems on Implements and Equipment
Farm machinery consists of many fast-moving parts that help it do its job. These parts are also incredibly dangerous to users if proper precautions aren’t used. Referencing your owner’s manual, make sure all safety shields and guards are appropriately attached and functional. Do not use any machinery with broken safety equipment.
Your tractor and any additional implements should also have appropriate lights, safety markings and a slow-moving vehicle sign (SMV). An SMV should be mounted on the rear of the tractor and any trailing implement. It should be as close to the center of the vehicle or implement as possible, and its triangle point should be pointing upwards. Clean the SMV regularly so it doesn’t lose any of its shine and visibility.
3. Comply With Federal, State and Local Laws on Roads
Sharing the road with civilians is serious business and if your tractor or implement isn’t up to code, it could really cost you. Fines can be imposed against your operation if you’re found in violation. Self-propelled implements of husbandry (IoH) are subject to strict oversight, so be sure to check that they’re in compliance with all state and federal codes:
- Single IoH vehicles cannot exceed 60 feet in length
- Two and three-vehicles IoHs cannot exceed a combined length of 100 feet and are limited to a speed of 25 mph or less
- IoH operators must give at least half of the main portion of the road upon meeting another vehicle on a two-lane road
- IoH operators are not permitted to cross the center line in no passing zones, on grades or when the view is obstructed
4. Wear Job-appropriate Clothing
Working outside with heavy duty equipment is dangerous and ill-fitting clothing or a lack of proper clothing can put you in harm’s way. Consider outfitting yourself with the personal protective gear you’ll need for the job ahead each day. Wear the following items when working or performing maintenance on your tractor or an implement:
With all the pinch, tear, pull-in, shear or burn points on farm implements, it’s important that you keep your hands safe. Make sure to wear gloves that fit your hand comfortably, as a tight or loose pair can limit your ability to work efficiently and safely.
A long-sleeved shirt will help protect your skin from harmful sun rays and any fertilizing, pest control or other types of chemicals you might use. When it comes to sleeves, tight is better than loose, as a loose sleeve has the potential to catch in any moving parts of machinery and cause serious injury.
Make sure your pants aren’t too loose or long, and allow you to sit, squat or stretch while you work. Pockets are a plus, too, if you’d like to have small tools or equipment handy.
Consider wearing safety glasses or goggles while you work on any machinery to protect your eyes from debris. If you’re working with any chemicals, goggles are an absolute necessity.
Keeping your feet comfortable and safe should be at the top of your priorities since you’re constantly on your feet while you work. Wear a pair that are steel reinforced to protect your feet from any dropped objects.
5. Take Your Farm Job Seriously
Because accidents on the farm and in the field can have a lasting affect on your health and well-being, be sure to stay vigilant when operating implements and driving farm machinery. Like many other jobs on the farm, it’s best to address safety when bringing on new employees — during their initial training. Here are a few tips to help you operate farm machinery safely:
The most important part of tractor and implement operation is the operator. If you’re not alert and aware, not even the most advanced safety features can prevent an accident.
Get plenty of rest
Multiple studies have concluded that a lack of sleep hampers your ability to drive a standard automobile — so imagine the kind of danger you could put yourself and others in if you try to drive a tractor and an implement while you’re tired.
Stay hydrated and well-fed
Your focus and energy are key to operating dangerous machinery safely, so drink plenty of water and eat before you step into your tractor’s cab.
Never consume alcohol or any legalized recreational drugs before you drive any sort of farm machinery or vehicle. Carefully check the side effects of any prescribed medications you’re taking and avoid using any over-the-counter medication that makes you drowsy, nauseous or dizzy.
6. Prevent a Tractor Rollover
While tractors can roll over even without attached implements, adding machinery or additional trailers can quickly shift the tractor’s center of gravity — greatly increasing the instability to the vehicle. It wasn’t until the 1970s that new tractors were required to be equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS), but tractors produced before the requirement can and should be retrofitted.
Install roll bars
Roll bars, roll cages and other ROPS help prevent drivers from being thrown, pinned under or crushed by an overturned tractor. However, without the use of a seat belt, these systems are not as safe — when a seatbelt is worn, a ROPS greatly reduces the risk of severe injury or death due to a tractor rollover.
Stay off the soft shoulder
Tractor and implement rollovers occur frequently when a load-bearing tire veers onto unsupported soil. That action forces the vehicle to tip and overturn. When operating a tractor or towing trailers, be sure to keep all wheels on the compacted, gravel portion of the shoulder.
Retire unsafe tractors
If you’re driving an older tractor that hasn’t been updated with an ROPS, you should consider upgrading to a newer tractor with modern safety features.
7. Practice Tractor Safety
Driving a tractor isn’t easy. Every driver should be well-trained by an experienced driver before ever setting foot in a cab. Some states offer tractor driving courses and certifications. A confident and trained driver is a good driver, so consider getting some professionally-led training before you put a new driver in the field.
Even if you are an experienced driver, it’s important to keep these additional tips in mind:
Adjust your seat
If your tractor has multiple users, your seat will need to be adjusted appropriately before each use. Sitting too high, low, close or far from the windshield will affect your ability to safely drive the tractor.
Check your mirrors
Since tractors and their attached equipment are so large, it’s difficult to get a complete view of your surroundings while you’re driving. Make sure your rear-view mirrors are adjusted to give you a clear look of what’s behind you while you’re working in the field or transporting equipment.
Avoid uneven terrain
If you must use your tractor on any sort of slope, it’s important to drive very slowly and carefully. Slopes are very dangerous for heavy vehicles, and with attached equipment, that risk increases. Avoid turning sharply and keep as much of the tractor’s weight uphill as possible.
Never drive with a rider
There’s a reason you usually only have one seat belt in a tractor. An extra person in the cab can mean more distractions, tight spaces and a bigger risk of injury in the event of an accident.
8. Review Power Take-off Safety
A power take-off (PTO) allows your tractor to transfer power from its engine to an implement such as a mower, tiller or cultivator. The PTO rotates at very high speeds and should always be shielded. Users should never approach or touch a PTO while it is moving.
Engage the PTO only when needed
Whenever you’re not using the implement that the PTO is powering, shut the tractor’s engine off completely and remove the keys.
Review operator’s instructions before using PTO
Refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on how to hook up the PTO to an implement, how to maintain it and how to remove it. Always make sure the PTO is off when approaching an idling tractor.
Farm Coverage for the Unexpected
With the right training, proper safety procedures and a farm and ranch insurance plan that’s crafted just for you, you can be sure your farm and what matters most to you will be protected. Get in touch with an American Family Insurance agent for more details on how you can get the right support for your dream.