PTO Entanglement (Newspaper Article)

  • Stiles, Martha;
  • Domingo, I. V.;
  • Rodriguez, Jenny

The worker's shirt sleeve was caught on the rotating shaft of the PTO. His arm was almost severed, his neck was fractured, and his head lacerated. He lost consciousness. His co-workers called the ambulance service that took him to the nearest emergency hospital. The worker survived, but lost his arm.

This is another true account of a farm injury which could have been prevented. It happened in December 1991 and was reported to the NURSE project of the California Occupational Health Program. The victim is a worker on a dairy farm. He was feeding cows, using a tractor-drawn feed wagon. An auger turned inside the wagon, mixing the feed and pushing it out to the troughs. This auger is connected by a driveshaft to a power take-off (PTO) unit at the back of the tractor. The PTO began to mal unction. Leaving the engine idling , the worker climbed off the tractor to check the attachment. From the ground, he tried to reach for the lever to disengage the PTO. His left shirt sleeve was caught on the rotating driveshaft, which was not guarded.

Limb amputations, fractures, and lacerations are just a few types of injury that can result from entanglement with PTO assemblies or other moving parts of farm machinery. Broken necks, shoulders and spines, scalping, and even death have occurred due to such unsafe behaviors as earlier described. PTOs transfer power from the tractor to attached implements such as a balers, feed wagons, nut sweepers, bed shapers, etc. PTOs can be very dangerous if operated without shields. They rotate at 540 r 1,000 rpm and once clothing, jewelry, limb, or hair gets caught, there is no time to disentangle.

It is always necessary to exercise extreme caution when working with machinery. By following the guidelines below, you can prevent most injuries:

Check the machinery thoroughly at the beginning of the day and correct any malfunctions before using it .

Never use PTOs without shields and make sure that all other guards or shields are in place. These shields should meet the standards set by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If the equipment was manufactured before the standards were in place, your employer should have it retrofitted with the proper safety shields. Likewise, worn and damaged shields should be promptly replaced.

Wear snug-fitting clothes. Tie long hair in a tight bun, or tuck it under your hat or cap. Remove any loose jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, watches or scarves that can get caught.

Always stop the machine when a malfunction occurs. Disengage the PTO and shut off the engine.

Always replace shields and guards after making the needed repairs or adjustments.

When a piece of equipment malfunctions, some operators leave the engine idling or keep the PTO engaged, believing that this facilitates adjustment. Others simply do it to "save time". However, you must always remember that entanglements happen only as a result of contact with moving parts of machinery. Always take the time to shut the machine off and wait until the moving parts you need to work on have come to a complete stop before even approaching it!

This radio public service announcement was produced by the Agricultural Health and Safety Center, Applied Behavioral Sciences of the University of California at Davis. For further information contact Jenny Rodriguez, UCCE, Ag. Bldg., County Civic Center, Visalia, CA 93291-4584, (209) 733-6491.

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