In the agricultural industry, tractors are the leading cause of accidents and injuries. Last year in August, an octogenarian Perthshire farmer was crushed to death between his tractor and tree. The old man had failed to follow necessary precautions and could not withstand the fatal injuries he received.
Most farm machinery consists of hazardous rotating elements. Therefore, it is imperative before the time runs out to learn about operating tractors and other farm equipment safely and securely avoiding all chances of near-misses and accidents. These simple guidelines will help prevent not just property damages but also potential injuries.
Control Safety Measures
Always make sure that the handbrake is applied and the machine control is in the neutral mode. Stop the engine and remove the key. Many deaths are caused by letting the engine remain engaged as was the case with the man mentioned above who met his inopportune death by stepping out of the tractor to remove plastic sheeting from a bale of silage while leaving the engine running without putting the handbrake on.
Some machinery has hydraulic and Power Take Off (PTO) driven parts which must be halted and the power source ought to be removed during the safe stop procedure. These parts must be isolated from the energizing source whenever one intends to get down from the driver’s seat to perform any task or maintenance work.
Before operating heavy farm machinery, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the attire appropriate for using the machine?
- Are you properly trained to use the machine?
- Do you understand the operating manual completely?
- Are you wearing all the required personal protective equipment?
- Have the risk assessment and pre start checkups been properly conducted?
- Has a work plan been delivered to the persons who may get affected?
Ensuring Machine Safety before Starting the Tractor. Before starting a farm vehicle, the operator should always carry out machine maintenance inspection on the following:
- Lubricant and fuel levels
- Tyre pressure
- Hydraulic leakages
- Loose fittings
- Radiator fluid levels
Additionally, it should also be ascertained that:
- There are no hindrances in the path and the brakes are working fine
- The machine guards are properly fitted and are in first-class condition
- Hitching and linking equipment such as hitch rings, pins and clips are properly attached with the towing machine like the tractor etc.
In the Driving Position
- Make sure that you are comfortable in the vehicle. Adjust the mirrors accordingly; also ascertain that all the mirror surfaces and windows are absolutely clean so that there are no visibility issues.
- Wear seat belts.
- You should be well aware of the mounting and dismounting technique that is with two hands and one foot or the other way around. This tactic is called three point contacts. You should always get off from the vehicle by facing inwards this would assist you getting a firmer grip.
- Never dismount from a running vehicle and remember to safe stop the machine.
- Do not use the machine when the guards are not in position.
- Take special care when reversing especially when the weather is bad and you are facing visibility issues. Make use of the horn frequently in such situations.
- Be vigilant of rear-end swaying motions chiefly when ploughs are being used
- Regardless of a work plan being communicated to people, keep in mind that there may still be unwanted bystanders around, so stop and see that these people move to a secure place before resuming.
Using Controls and External Controls
When using internal and external controls of farm machinery, follow these guidelines:
- Know the function of each and every internal control and do not experiment with controls
- Use the controls only when you are seated in the driving seat
- Use the manual if you don’t know the operation of any one of a particular control. Try to keep a copy of the manual inside.
- Identify the correct standing position from the operator manual before operating on external controls
- Utilize external control only when hitching is required
- Keep your body parts away from the mounting mechanisms
Never attempt to lubricate the machine when the machine is in motion.
Every time you work with machines, like a forage harvester, implement these steps:
Use goggles to protect small shreds and flying particles from entering your eyes.
Don’t clear blockages on a running engine. Serious injuries may occur if the operators try to clear out the blockages while the machine running.
Except for the sharpening purposes all the other work ought to be done when the machine is motionless.
Accidents commonly occur during the process of hitching or unhitching other machines that are mounted to the farm machinery or ride-on lawnmowers. Follow these steps:
- Never place your feet directly under or in close proximity of the drawbars.
- Ascertain that support equipment like skid and jacks is well maintained.
- Use the accurate hitching system.
- Prevention from Overturning
- Tractors are susceptible to overturning anywhere so never drive on slopes unless you are well acquainted with the art of driving up such surfaces. Take the following precautions as well:
- Do not attempt to jump out of the vehicle if an overturn occurs.
- Overturning is just as common on flat areas as inclined surfaces.
- Make use of the brakes of the trailer and trailed equipment.
- Ensure that a safety cab is attached.
The operators should be well aware of the stability and the sensitivity of the equipment to avoid a shift in the center of gravity.
Knowledge, skill and safe practices should be paid heed to avoid accidents when operating farm machinery. Make sure you follow all the above mentioned guidelines and are properly trained before handling any heavy machinery on the farm.