Practice tractor safety this season

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

Spring is here and that means a lot of busy work outside on each and every farm. It also reminds me that we need to think tractor safety. Whether operating a lawnmower, a compact tractor or a full-size heavy-duty tractor, tractor operation safety is a must.

I take it very seriously as I was very close to a near death accident on our family’s farm when I was just nine. I was the one driving the tractor and my dad was the one that got hurt. Dad was severely injured and some thought he may not survive, but he did and healed just fine after weeks of recovery. I was scarred for life and to this day still hate tractors. In the end, our family was very lucky not to lose dad. Though scarred, I still use tractors on our farm, as it is a necessity for certain tasks when dealing with our livestock.

Unfortunately, there are many deaths each year in farm accidents that involve tractors. Some statistics report that tractor accidents account for about 125 deaths on farms a year. In a national safety report, in 2012, 374 farmers and farm workers reportedly died from farm work related injuries.

Accidents don’t just happen — they can be prevented almost 100 percent of the time if care was taken to be safe.

It doesn’t have to be a big tractor to be dangerous. If operated carelessly, your lawn mower can be the focus of a deathly accident.

On farms, tractors are designed to do a job. What many of us don’t realize is the fact that many of our tractors are designed with safety in mind. What isn’t part of the design however, is the operation. Safe operation is in the hands of the operator. That means you, your family, your hired help etc.

A tractor is not a toy and should be operated with care and safety in mind all the time. You might think –“oh, it will never happen to me.” Do you really pay close attention to detail and the operation any farm machine you operate? How many times have you had that close call?

Here are some basic rules we should follow to the letter when it comes to tractor safety.

1. First and foremost, get to know your tractor, the implements you use with it and how they are supposed to work. Keep your tractor in good working order.

2. The RPOS (Rollover protective structure) should be kept in place if possible at all times. The use of the seat belt if the tractor is equipped with should also be used at all times. These two items are very important to any tractor and its operator as a majority of tractor fatalities are the result of tractor rollovers.

3. Be familiar with the terrain and always drive safely. Use caution on slopes, ditch banks and roadways. Slow down when making turns. Too often the idea of “slowing down” is seldom used.

4. As with any vehicle – never start your tractor in a closed building. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and can be very deadly.

5. Always keep the protective shields in place. An unshielded PTO (Power take-off) can be very deadly. Just imagine that in two tenths of a second you can be wrapped two feet in a PTO.

6. Keep your hitches low and always on the drawbar. If not, the point of balance can be impacted and the tractor could flip over backwards.

7. Never jump off a moving tractor. This sounds silly but it would not be mentioned if people did not do it. As well never leave a tractor running without taking precautions. A runaway tractor can be extremely dangerous. This is where I would also tell you not to bypass start a tractor, which is jump starting the tractor from the ground. Jump starting tractors result in a significant number of tractor run-over deaths each year. In by-pass starting, a person attempts to start a tractor from the ground using a metal tool to create a short circuit across the starter terminals, rather than from the operator’s platform. Sparks fly, electricity snaps as the circuit is completed and the engine starts after the starter has been engaged.

8. Never refuel while the engine is running or hot. This would be the same for adding water to a radiator when the engine is hot. Hot water in the radiator may erupt onto a person and scald and severely burn them.

9. Keep all children off of and away from your tractor and its implements at all times.

10. Never be in a hurry about anything to do with your tractor. Take your time and do it right.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension