In the Headlines!
Tractor Operator Narrowly Escapes Death
The skid steer loader was stuck again and Dave wasn't sure his tractor would have enough traction in this smeary mess to pull it out. Then Dave had a "brilliant" idea. If he attached the tow chain higher on the tractor, it would put more downward pressure on the tires (or so he thought) and that would give him more traction. He hooked one end of the chain to the skid steer and the other end to his tractor on a bracket behind the seat. Dave climbed into the driver's seat and started the tractor. He eased the tractor forward, slowly pulling the chain tight. Then he fully let out the clutch. In an instant, the tractor reared up, tossing Dave backward off the seat and onto the ground. The tractor, now without a driver, was spinning in the mud, its front tires about three feet off the ground. Dave scrambled out of the way to safety. If the mud hadn't limited traction, the tractor surely would have flipped all the way over and crushed Dave. By hitching the tow chain high, he unknowingly had increased the leverage and the likelihood of a backward flip. [From Safety Management for Landscapers, Grounds-Care Businesses and Golf Courses . Deere and Company. 2001.]
"Safety is the bottom line" Graphic
Landscaper Killed in Tractor Mishap
The water project was going well. The new supply line for the irrigation system had been laid and it was just a matter of grading a little dirt. Pete hopped on the tractor and used the rear blade to smooth out the uneven line of soil that ran between the road and the ravine. Pete didn't fasten his seat belt. No one ever did at the golf course. In fact, on this tractor, Pete couldn't have fastened his seat belt even if he had wanted to. Part of the buckle had been bent several years ago so that the buckle parts no longer mated. Pete hadn't graded 20 feet when the edge of the ravine suddenly gave way. The tractor started to roll, tossing Pete out of the seat, and directly into its path. The right fender caught him in the abdomen, pinning him down as the tractor slid some 50 feet down the embankment. The ambulance was there within 10 minutes, but it was too late. Pete never regained consciousness. [From Safety Management for Landscapers, Grounds-Care Businesses and Golf Courses . Deere and Company. 2001.]
Most tractors used by landscapers, grounds-care businesses, golf course superintendents, and general horticultural industries are small, compact tractors. These are frequently in the 20-40 horsepower range.
Although these tractors are small compared to the larger tractors used in agriculture, the causes for serious injuries and deaths are the same, and therefore, the principles of "Safer Tractor Operations" are the same.
In a 1999 study conducted by the Deep-South Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, it was found that, on average, 21 adults died each year in Florida agriculture in recent years. At least 74 of those deaths involved machinery, including tractors overturning and crushing their drivers. Across the nation, approximately 36 per cent of the agricultural work fatalities in 1997 involved a tractor, and 19 percent involved other machinery, according to the National Safety Council.
Safer tractor operations and the use of protective equipment could prevent many of the deaths and injuries involving tractors. Tractor operators and owners play a major role in making tractor operations safer. Owners have responsibilities for providing a safer environment and safer equipment. They also coordinate maintenance designed to ensure the safety of the equipment. The final responsibility for making the operation of tractors safer lies with the tractor operators themselves.
It's often only when an incident occurs that people become focused on what might have prevented injury or loss of life. The following pages give guidance about how everyone in their operation can work together to make using tractors safer.
This publication is one in a series of UF/IFAS Extension circulars devoted to tractor safety for various audiences. The complete series is (also see the Resources section at the end of this publication):
II. Foundations of Tractor Safety: Safer Operations on Safer Tractors in Safer Environments
The three major elements which must be considered when developing programs to make tractor operations safer are:
Deaths and injuries result from hazards. A particular driver may be safety-conscious and driving a tractor equipped with safety features, yet he/she might drive into a hazardous environment with a false sense of security; or because an environment is considered "safe", an operator might tolerate an unsafe tractor. Either of these situations is likely to result in an incident. Preventing incidents means recognizing hazards and avoiding them or, at least, taking appropriate precautions if they must be encountered.
An operator who uses good safety practices on a tractor with safety features reduces the chances of being killed or injured.
A. A Safer Operator
The Federal Labor Standards Act requires that individuals operating a tractor with more than 20 PTO horsepower must be at least 16 years old, except under the following conditions:
A 14- or 15-year-old may operate a tractor as a student in a bona fide agricultural education program or if he/she has received a certificate of completion from a 4-H Federal Extension Service Training Program or a U.S. Office of Education Vocational Agriculture Training Program. Youths of any age can be employed by their parents to work on a farm they own or operate. However, remember that the exemption does not eliminate the hazard. The following rules apply to all tractor operators employed in businesses under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Although these rules do not govern everyone, they should be applied to all tractor drivers.
2. Operator's Responsibilities
Tractor owners should consider explaining the following responsibilities to anyone who might operate their tractor.
Operators are responsible for daily pre-operational checks of their tractors, even if a shop mechanic has responsibility for servicing it. This pre-operational check needs to include at least the following activities:
A tractor is not the only "machine" that needs a pre-operation check. The operator does too.
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the operator should not drive.
3. Important Checks
Operators should conduct a pre-operational check of their clothing.
The operator should make periodic safety checks throughout the day. Stay alert and remain as comfortable as possible.
The incident you prevent might well save your life and the lives of others.
4. Shortcuts are Short-sighted! or, Invest Seconds, Save Lives!
Stepping over a power takeoff instead of walking around a tractor might seem like a time-saving shortcut, but it exposes you to a much greater risk of injury or death.
Often, there is a "recommended safe way" of doing a task and then there is another way that seems quicker but is more hazardous. Many people use the more dangerous shortcut to save time.
However, timed studies show that the time invested in doing a task safely is quite insignificant, especially when compared to the costs of injuries or possible death that could result from the extra hazards involved in the shortcut.
Here are some examples of the small amount of time it takes to be safe. To put these times in perspective, the total time invested for 100 repetitions of a task was calculated. Note that 100 repetitions may occur over an entire year/season. For example, stepping over the PTO may take 2 seconds less time than walking around it. So, if this were done 100 times in a season, you would save only 3.33 minutes. However, every one of those 100 times, you put yourself at risk for injury or death. (See Tables 1 and 2 .)
B. A Safer Tractor
Modern tractors are much safer than tractors of 20 or 30 years ago. Rollover protective structures (ROPS) and seat belts now prevent many deaths and injuries from tractor overturns. Manufacturers have improved hitch designs and weight distribution, making tractors more stable. Improved shielding of power takeoff shafts, improved hydraulic designs, improved brakes, wider wheel bases, better visibility, and other features such as running lights and adjustable seats have also contributed to safer tractors.
Despite modern safety improvements, there are still dangers that come with driving a tractor. These dangers can be reduced if the tractor operator understands the tractor and maintains and operates it properly.
A few modern features, however, have actually increased the potential danger.
Management has the responsibility of providing operators with safer tractors. Consider the following ways to improve tractor safety.
1. Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS)
Nearly one half of tractor-related deaths are due to tractor overturns.
Side Overturns -- The side overturn is the most frequent type of overturn. Studies indicate 75-85 percent of overturns are to the side. A tractor has a high center of gravity, thus, sharp turns and/or high loads can cause it to overturn quite easily -- and at relatively low speed. Centrifugal force can cause a tractor to overturn if the direction of travel is changed. For example, when a tractor's right front wheel veers into the road ditch, the natural reaction of the operator is to steer it back onto the roadway, however, the forces will pull the tractor over on its side.
Rear Overturns -- The second type of overturn is to the rear. These overturns may be less frequent, but without a ROPS, they are the most deadly. It is estimated that, without a ROPS, 85 percent of rear overturns result in the operator's death.
Rear overturns occur when the tractor cannot move forward and the rear axle torque causes the tractor to pivot around the rear axle. The tractor can reach the point of no return in as little as 0.75 seconds. The entire event can happen in as little as 1.5 seconds. There is no time for the operator to react. Rear overturns are often due to pulling a load uphill, being stuck in the mud, or attempting to pull a load that has been hitched above the drawbar.
When possible, operate a tractor equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS). Most tractors should be equipped with a ROPS and seat belt. However, certain tractors are exempt, including:
ROPS and Seat Belt Use
Always wear a seat belt on a tractor with a ROPS. If an overturn occurs, the seat belt helps keep the driver within the safety zone that the ROPS creates. Seat belts are not to be used on tractors without a ROPS since, in that case, an operator constrained in the seat would be crushed.
2. Frequently Asked Questions about Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS)
How common are tractor overturn injuries? Tractor overturns are the leading cause of work-related deaths due to working with tractors.
Can overturn injuries be prevented? The use of a ROPS and seat belt is 99 percent effective in preventing deaths and injuries from overturn.
Why is a seat belt needed with the ROPS? A ROPS provides a zone of protection for the tractor operator, but during an overturn, a fastened seat belt keeps the operator in that zone.
If you must use a tractor without a ROPS, do not use a seat belt. Without a ROPS, there is no zone of protection, and wearing a seatbelt in this situation eliminates any chance of operator survival.
How do I know if a ROPS is available for my tractor(s)? The ROPS directory, prepared by the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wisc., contains this information. The directory is distributed to county Extension offices and equipment dealers. Most manufacturers offer ROPS at affordable prices. Contact your dealer for details. The ROPS directory is available on the Internet at < http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/nfmc/pages/default.aspx?page=tractor >. Or you can check with your local tractor dealer.
I cannot afford ROPS for all my tractors, but I want to reduce my risk of being hurt in an overturn. What can I do? Safety can be improved by using a tractor equipped with a ROPS for riskier operations. The value of a ROPS is such that trading in an older tractor for a model equipped with a ROPS might be worth considering. Use your ROPS-equipped tractor for riskier operations.
If ROPS are so great, can I make my own? Homemade ROPS are unlikely to provide protection in the event of an overturn. Consider the weight of a tractor. The dynamic forces that act upon a ROPS during a tractor overturn make it crucial that a ROPS be properly designed, manufactured, and installed. The ROPS and tractor must work together as a system in order to stay together as a unit in the event of an overturn.
The likelihood of a homemade ROPS providing protection is very small. Only ROPS that have been tested to meet specific standards are acceptable. ROPS that have not been approved can split during an overturn. Anything less than an approved ROPS provides a false sense of security. Altering a ROPS by welding something onto it or by drilling holes in it can make it less effective.
Will a ROPS limit the way I can use my tractor? Few owners actually remove a ROPS because of interference. ROPS that fold down are available for many tractors.3. More Tractor Safety Tips
4. Bypass Starting Dangers
Shortcuts are common in agriculture, but they are dangerous. Bypass starting is a very dangerous shortcut.
The term "bypass starting" points to its danger. It bypasses all the safety-start and neutral-start switches in the tractor's electrical and hydraulic systems. The problem comes when someone tries to bypass-start a tractor or other piece of equipment that is in gear. The person can then get pulled down by the drive wheel and be crushed. The runaway tractor can also injure or kill others in the area.
Often operators or mechanics bypass-start an engine because of a maintenance problem with the tractor's neutral-start switch. It is a good idea to immediately repair mechanical problems that might make bypass starting tempting. Remember, every death or injury due to bypass starting could have been avoided.
5. Safety Switch Check
Periodically check switches to make sure they are in working condition. This helps avoid the temptation of trying to bypass-start an engine. Following the steps below only takes a few seconds.
C. A Safer Environment
Tractor overturns in canals, ditches and washouts are common. Steep slopes and loose soils in these environments are serious hazards. Other hazards are found on public roads, blind corners, narrow bridges, culverts, sharp turns, steep terrain and slippery surfaces.
Inspect the environment in which tractors will be used. Identify the hazards and take action to eliminate them. Implement the following suggestions to reduce the environmental hazards:
III. Safer Tractor Operations
Tractors are not passenger vehicles. Except for those built with instructional seats, they are designed for one person to operate.
Passengers on tractors can interfere with safe operation of a tractor. The extra rider can distract the operator, block access to controls or obstruct the operator's vision.
There are many reasons why extra riders are thrown from the tractor, frequently resulting in death. These include:
Runovers can also occur when the tractor is involved in an incident. One common scene occurs when a rider is thrown after the tractor hits a building, bridge, or another vehicle. If the tractor overturns, the operator and the rider are both in danger
2. The "No Riders" Rule
The only way to prevent extra rider injuries or deaths is to prohibit riders on tractors except for those actually involved in training on a tractor equipped with an instructional seat. Consider making a permanent policy for not allowing riders on tractors.
Make sure all tractor operators observe the "NO RIDERS" rule. Discuss the importance of this rule with managers and employees. It is also helpful to post "NO RIDERS" decals on all tractors to remind others about the policy. "NO RIDERS" decals may be purchased from the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids organization (1-800-423-5437). Many implement dealerships also carry these decals.
The most effective way to observe the NO RIDERS" rule is to eliminate the need for extra riders on tractors. Use other vehicles, such as trucks or motor vehicles, when transporting people to distant work sites.
Other equipment may be unsafe for extra riders, too. Most all-terrain vehicles, skid steer loaders, and riding lawnmowers are designed for one person.
B. Road Safety for Tractors and Equipment
Each year, incidents involving tractors and other equipment occur on public roads, causing deaths, injuries, and costly equipment damage.
Collisions with other vehicles make up nearly half of these incidents. Running off the road, overturning, striking a fixed object or the operator falling off the equipment make up the remainder.
About one third of tractor-related deaths occur on public roads, according to the National Safety Council. Many people assume that these collisions happen during bad weather or hazardous conditions. Studies have repeatedly shown that nearly 80 percent of tractor-motor vehicle collisions occur on dry, straight roads in daylight.
Here are some practical tips that can help. Although most of these points may seem obvious, they are nonetheless important to review.
1. Common Causes of Collisions
Nearly one half of all collisions between motorists and tractors involve one of two scenarios -- the left-turn collision or the rear-end collision. The number of incidents involving each scenario is about equal.
a. Left-Turn Collision
The scenario: The left-turn collision occurs when the tractor is about to make a left turn at the same time that a motorist tries to pass.
Why it happens: Like drivers of tractor-trailers, tractors sometimes need to make wide left turns. Drivers may swing the tractor wide to the right before making a left turn because they need extra room to line up with a gate or driveway. Motorists may find this maneuver confusing, especially if they think that the tractor operator is moving over to let them pass. Tractor operators may be unaware of the hazard to a following motorist, especially when the tractor is towing equipment, because tractor drivers then have limited visibility and may not see the motor vehicle at all.
How to avoid: Tractor operators can reduce the potential for the left-turn collision by installing extension mirrors on the tractor to improve visibility. A sticker that is often seen on tractor-trailers is a good reminder to motorists: "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you." This sticker can be placed on equipment to provide motorists with more information.
b. Rear-End Collision
The scenario: The rear-end collision happens when a motorist does not see the equipment quickly enough.
Why it happens: It is easy to misjudge speed when approaching a slow-moving vehicle. In most cases, there are only a few seconds to react and slow down. For example, if the motorist is driving 55 miles per hour and comes upon a tractor that is moving 15 miles per hour, it only takes five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field.
If the driver of a motor vehicle that is traveling at 50 miles per hour spots a tractor 400 feet ahead on the road and the tractor is moving at 20 miles per hour, the motorist has less than 10 seconds to avoid a rear-end collision.
In those ten seconds, the motorist must recognize that a dangerous situation exists, determine the speed at which the tractor is moving, decide what action to take and apply the brakes hard enough and long enough to avoid a collision.
How to avoid: Use marking and lighting (as described in section 4) to provide motorists with the information they need to recognize the hazard.
c. Sideswipe Collision
The scenario: When a motor vehicle meets or attempts to pass a tractor, it is sideswiped by the tractor/equipment.
Why it happens: Motorists do not take into account the width or length of the equipment or the sway of the tractor and implement. Also, equipment takes up more available roadway when approaching bridges, mailboxes, or other shoulder obstructions.
How to avoid: In order for oncoming and passing traffic to better assess the width of equipment, reflective tape and materials should be used to mark the extreme front and rear points of the machine.
d. Head-On Collision with Other Motor Vehicle
The scenario: While a motor vehicle is passing a tractor, it is confronted by another motor vehicle approaching head on. There is no time to get off the road and a head-on collision occurs.
Why it happens: As in the sideswipe, a driver may fail to appreciate the length of the equipment to be passed and be forced to spend a longer time in the passing lane. Add to this that the driver's view when preparing to pass may be blocked by the equipment.
e. Head-On Collision with Vehicles
The scenario: An on-coming motorist collides head-on with the towed implement that is wider than the tractor.
Why it happens: Wide equipment poses a special hazard, especially at night, because drivers in oncoming vehicles may not realize that the tractor is pulling equipment which extends across the centerline and into the lane of oncoming traffic until it is too late to react.
How to avoid: If at all possible, keep road travel of wide equipment to a minimum, especially at night. Equipment that is well-marked and well-lighted will provide motorists with better information to help them react in time. Reflective materials should be used to mark the extreme front points of the machine.
2. Escort Vehicles
At times, tractors or the equipment they are pulling cross into the oncoming traffic lane, especially on narrow rural roads. In these situations, consider using an escort vehicle equipped with flashing yellow lights. Remember that equipment can obscure rear tractor lights.
Even if an escort vehicle is not required by law, it is good practice.
Escort vehicles are required by state laws under certain conditions. These conditions are listed in Table 4 . This table is not definitive. If you have any question about an oversize vehicle, contact your Department of Transportation permits division.
For Florida, additional requirements for the kind of vehicle that may be used as an escort, as well as for its marking and lighting are specified in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Section 14-26.0012.
Contact your state Department of Transportation for complete details about the kind of vehicle which is acceptable for escort use, as well as the proper marking and lighting of escort vehicles.
3. Lighting and Marking -- Summary of ASAE Standard S279.10
Remember that the reason for marking and lighting is to provide motorists with better information. Lighting and marking should help motorists become aware of the presence, speed and size of tractors and towed equipment. Placement of marking and lighting is important. Marking and lights that are obscured or not at the motorist's eye level do not provide "quick reflex" information for the motorist.
An excellent example of this principle was the placement of a brake light in the rear window of cars. A study of its effectiveness was conducted among a test group of New York City cab drivers. Placement of the light at the motorist's eye level helped motorists to see brake lights several cars ahead and reduced the number of rear-end collisions by 50%. For the collisions that did occur, damages were reduced by one-third. This happened not by reforming or changing drivers, but simply by providing them with better information.
What are ASAE Standards? ASAE is the professional society for those interested in engineering knowledge and technology for food and agriculture, related industries, and resources. Standards are based on experience and research, and they are developed by committees that include qualified people from producer, consumer, and general interest groups.
This lighting and marking standard applies to all tractors, self-propelled machinery, and towed machinery used for "agricultural" operations which might be driven or towed on any road that is also accessible to the public (this includes tractors, machinery for agriculture and forestry, and powered lawn and garden equipment; for more details, see standard ASAE S390.1).
Self-propelled machines and towed machines are considered separately in the standard. The following is only a summary of ASAE Standard 279.10 OCT98 "Lighting and Marking of Agricultural Equipment on Highways." Consult the standard for exact details about the specific types of lights and their placement. This applies to all categories of tractors.
a. General Recommendations for Lighting Self-Propelled Equipment
The standard recommends six features related to lighting self-propelled equipment, which includes tractors. The standard defines the proper lateral and vertical placement of lights; in general, lights should be no lower that 3 feet from the ground or more than 10 feet high.
Headlamps -- Two standard headlamps should be mounted at the same height and spaced as far apart as possible, the same distance on either side of the centerline. The standard also defines how bright headlamps should be.
Work lamps -- Fit the equipment with work lamps. Rear-facing work lamps should not be used on the highway, but others should be used to illuminate the area near the equipment on its sides and front.
Taillights -- Two red taillights should be mounted at the same height, as far apart as possible, and the same distance on either side of the centerline. Taillights should be at least 3 feet from the ground and not more that 10 feet.
Warning Lights -- Extra-wide vehicles (12 feet or more) should have flashing amber lights marking the sides of the vehicle to reduce the danger of sideswipes. The lamps should flash in unison at 60 to 85 times per minute.
Turn Indicators -- Beyond red taillights, the equipment should carry turn indicators. When a turn indicator is on, the warning light on the side of the flashing turn signal should flash faster, up to 110 flashes per minute, while the warning light on the side opposite the turn should not flash.
Seven-terminal Receptacle -- Details of the seven-terminal receptacle for machines commonly used with equipment are defined in the standard. Towed equipment needs to have the matching seven-pin plug. The wiring of the plug and receptacle are described in the standard.
b. General Recommendations for Marking Non-self-propelled Equipment
Marking refers to using reflectors, reflective materials, and specific signs to make the presence and the size of towed equipment obvious to other motorists. The general requirements for marking non-self-propelled equipment are:
Rear Reflectors -- Red reflectors visible to the rear up to a distance of 600 feet should be used to mark the outermost side extensions of the equipment.
Front Reflectors -- Yellow reflectors visible to the front should mark the extreme left and right of equipment, especially if it is wider than the towing machine.
Conspicuity Material -- Two kinds of material visible to the rear should be used: 1) "retroreflective" material, which is a material or device that reflects light back to the source, and 2) red-orange non-reflective, fluorescent material.
Conspicuity material visible to the front should be yellow.
Slow-moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem -- This triangular emblem should be visible to the rear of any slow-moving machinery (<25 mph). Remember: point up!
If Tractor Illumination Is Obscured -- Towed equipment should carry any lighting that it obscures on the tractor. For example, if the towed equipment blocks a tractor's taillights from the view of following motorists, the towed equipment should carry taillights. The same is true for the tractor's flashing red warning lights and its turn indicators.
If the Tractor's SMV Emblem Is Obscured -- The SMV emblem must be visible to following motorists. If the equipment being towed obscures the SMV emblem on the tractor, then one must be mounted on the towed equipment.
c. Special Recommendations for Lighting and Marking Non-self-propelled Equipment
The non-self-propelled equipment that is towed by tractors should have its own lighting and marking. In many cases, the standard has special recommendations based on the width or length of the towed equipment.
Towed equipment should be marked and lighted so that it is clearly visible from the rear and the side. It is important that the full width and length of the equipment be obvious to motorists who are approaching quickly from the rear, who are trying to pass slow-moving equipment, or who are approaching as oncoming traffic.
Equipment Width and Length -- The following special requirements apply in these situations:
Extra Width: The towed equipment extends:
Extra Length: The towed equipment extends:
1) The towed equipment extends more than 4 feet to the left of the tractor's centerline.
2. Front-End Loaders
Front-end loaders can make tractors unstable and subject to side overturns.
3. Loading and Unloading Tractors
When loading a tractor onto a trailer or truck, always load it on level, stable ground. Make sure that the truck or trailer cannot move by setting the brakes or blocking the wheels or both. Whenever possible, slowly back the tractor onto the truck or trailer. Check to see if anyone is behind the tractor or near the trailer during loading.
B. Hazards of Filling Gas Cans
Vehicle fires sometimes occur while people are filling metal gas cans placed on plastic surfaces. This type of fire usually involves a gas can in the back of a pick-up truck with a plastic bed liner.
Gasoline tends to carry a static electric charge. When pouring gasoline into a can, this charge can build up on the can. If the can is sitting on concrete or on the ground, the static charge can safely flow away. But when the can is sitting on plastic, such as the plastic bed liner in a truck, the static charge can not escape because the plastic is an insulator, that is, it does not conduct electricity. A spark can occur between the can and the fuel nozzle and ignite the gasoline.
When the spark occurs in the flammable range in the gasoline vapor space near the open mouth of the gas can, a fire occurs.
Use only gas cans approved by OSHA and follow these precautions.
C. Steep Slopes
Sometimes a tractor must be operated on a steep slope.
D. What to Do When the Tractor Gets Stuck
Getting stuck can be a real inconvenience, and sometimes people feel embarrassed in this situation, but it happens all the time. Getting unstuck can be very dangerous, so do not let irritation or embarrassment cause you to act unsafely. If you need help, set an example and get help.
E. Used Equipment
The condition of equipment sold at auctions or transferred from person to person varies widely, so it is important to examine used equipment carefully.
When equipment is purchased through a dealership, the purchase usually includes a warranty, directions for maintenance and operation, warning, "seals of approval" and assurances that the equipment conforms with voluntary or federal standards.
Regardless of where equipment is bought, look for items that may detract from safety, such as missing shields and poor upkeep.
A bargain price may not be worth the risks involved. Do not be blinded by a "sale" and end up with below-standard equipment. Saving a few dollars is not worth the cost of an injury.
Consider the following questions when buying used equipment.
F. Hand Signals
Hand signals have been developed to provide a uniform means of communication between workers on the ground and equipment operators. They are especially useful when noise, distance, or language barriers make voice communication difficult.
There are eleven recognized hand signals found in ASAE Standard S351. They are illustrated in figures below.
G. Handling Large Hay Bales
When moving large bales, remember: Low and Slow .
Avoid sudden movements and turns which can easily cause the tractor to overturn. The higher the loader is raised, the higher the center of gravity, and the more easily the tractor will overturn.
Only use equipment, such as a grapple hook or bale spike, that is designed to be used with your tractor model for bale transport.
Placing a bale in a regular tractor bucket and anchoring with a chain is not adequate. Bales, especially if wet and thus very heavy, can snap the chain. The bale then rolls down the loader arms and crushes the operator. If the bale remains on the tractor, it may catch fire from exposure to hot engine components. The trapped operator will then be burned.
V. Tractor Operator Checklist
An operator checklist is provided at the end of this publication (see Table 5 ). This checklist is designed so that it can be kept as a record of a tractor operator's training.
Safe and competent tractor operators are important. Incidents that cause injury and death and damage to tractors, equipment or landscaping are costly.
The checklist can be used as is, or it may be "customized" to better meet specific needs. If a service mechanic is responsible for some of the maintenance functions, they might be omitted from the checklist.
VI. How Much Do You Know? Pre-Post Test on Tractor Safety
Testing operators before and after presenting the information in this publication can make their learning efforts more successful. Use the sample Pre-Post Test as it is, or make up a custom test which covers a specific area in detail or provides new questions.
We recommend that your Pre-Post Test include no more than ten or fifteen questions.
Sample Pre-Post Test
A copy of the sample test without the answer key can be found at the end of this publication in Table 6 .
1. Most injuries to tractor operators are preventable. True or False.
2. The safety features on modern tractors can protect the operator from anything. True or False.
3. Shortcuts usually save very little time while increasing danger to the operator. True or False.
4. A ROPS will prevent a tractor overturn. True or False.
5. How often should oil, fuel, and other fluid levels be checked?
6. Discomfort is: A) A normal part of work which keeps the operator alert and makes him work harder, or B) Something that tires and distracts the operator and can make work less safe.
7. Extra riders on tractors are often injured in what way?
8. At what level should warning lights be placed on tractors and other equipment for operation on public roads? A) As low as possible, B) Motorist's eye level, C) As high as possible.
9. The majority of tractor-automobile collisions occur: A) During wet weather, B) At night, C) On dry days in broad daylight.
10. The faster you are driving, the less likely you are to jackknife. True or False.
Answers: 1. True; 2. False; 3. True; 4. False; 5. Daily; 6. B; 7. Fall off tractor and are run over; 8. B; 9. C; 10. False.
Additional Pre-Post Test Questions
1. Loose clothing is a special danger near a PTO. True or False. (True)
2. Agriculture-related injuries are often made worse because injured workers in isolated areas may have to wait a long time for help. True or False. (True)
3. A seat belt will hold you in the "zone of protection" provided by a ROPS. True or False. (True)
4. Seat belts are not needed for short drives on a ROPS-equipped tractor. True or False. (False)
5. Over one half of agricultural fatalities result from operating what device? (Tractors)
6. Most injuries to tractor operators are preventable. True or False. (True)
7. It is better to think about safety: A) Before an incident, B) After an incident. (A)
8. What are the three major elements to consider in developing safer tractor operations? (The environment, the tractor, and the tractor operator)
9. When we can not control the environment, greater safety results from modifying our____? (Operations)
10. The safety features on modern tractors can protect the operator from anything. True or False. (False)
11. What is the recommended minimum distance from an embankment to operate machinery? (A distance equal to the depth of the embankment is the minimum recommended distance. Increase distance when soil is sandy or wet.)
12. Wet or sandy soil makes an embankment more dangerous. True or False. (True)
13. What does ROPS stand for? (Roll-over protective structure)
14. A ROPS will prevent a tractor overturn. True or False. (False)
15. Increased tractor power makes what dangers more likely? (Rear overturns, side overturns, loss of control)
16. Always wear a seat belt when operating a tractor equipped with a ROPS. True or False. (True)
17. Wide wheel adjustments make a tractor safer to operate. True or False. (True)
18. Never check for a hydraulic leak with what? (Your hand)
19. Shortcuts usually save very little time while increasing danger to the operator. True or False. (True)
20. When possible, making one operator responsible for a tractor is the best system. True or False. (True)
21. What is the minimum age at which employees may operate a tractor? (16)
22. When a tractor is not in use, any hydraulic equipment attached to it should be in what position? (Lowered)
23. What symptom can indicate exposure to carbon monoxide? (Headache)
24. Supervisors have the responsibility of seeing that all tractor operators have a complete understanding of all instructions and rules. True or False. (True)
25. Small rewards -- such as a meal, a local merchant gift certificate, or cash bonus -- presented monthly, can be effective in promoting safety. True or False. (True)
26. Slow-moving vehicle emblems are to be used for equipment traveling less than ___ mph. (25)
27. How often should you check oil, fuel, and other fluid levels? (Daily)
28. How often should you check for any oil, fuel or fluid leaks? (Daily)
29. How often should you check tire condition and inflation levels? (Daily)
30. How often should you check that platforms and steps are clean and free of debris and tools? (Daily)
31. How often should you check to see that lights, brakes and the steering mechanism are working properly? (Daily)
32. How often should you check that all gauges are giving proper readings and that the engine, transmission, and hydraulic system are not making any unusual sounds? (Daily)
33. How can you determine what special pre-operation checks a tractor might require? (Review the maintenance manual for the tractor.)
34. When you are angry, you should not operate a tractor. True or False. (True)
35. List personal protective equipment that might be needed when operating a tractor. (Respirator, eye and ear protection, protective clothing, head gear, gloves and boots)
36. Smoking is dangerous around what materials? (Gasoline or other fuels, as when fueling the tractor; dry materials; or pesticides)
37. Discomfort is: A) A normal part of work which keeps the operator alert and makes him work harder, or B) Something that tires and distracts the operator and can make work less safe. (B)
38. When you are exhausted, you should: A) Push through to get the job done, or B) Stop working until you are rested. (B)
39. Impatience promotes: A) Productivity, or B) Dangerous work habits. (B)
40. Dangerous work habits can result in injury to more than the operator. True or False. (True)
41. The few extra seconds taken to do a job safely are: A) More or B) Less than the time taken to recover from an injury. (B)
42. Extra riders on tractors are often injured in what way? (They fall off tractor and are run over.)
43. If you have done something many times without incident, it must not be dangerous. True or False. (False)
44. A ROPS makes a tractor safer for an extra rider. True or False. (False)
45. It is easier to fall out of an enclosed cab than most people think. True or False. (True)
46. What is the stopping distance for a tractor going 10 miles per hour, under ideal conditions? (30 feet)
47. Tradition is the best guide to safe practice. True or False. (False)
48. According to the National Safety Council, what percentage of tractor-related deaths occur on public roads? (1/3)
49. What time of day is best for moving tractors and equipment on public roads: A) Daytime, when visibility is good, or B) Nighttime when traffic is likely to be less. (A)
50. Correct marking and lighting of tractors and other farm equipment are very important when these vehicles must operate on public roads. What is the most basic required marking device required for public road travel? (SMV or Slow-Moving Vehicle emblem)
51. What marking device is recommended for application to all sides of equipment for public road travel? (Reflective tape)
52. At what level should warning lights be placed on tractors and other equipment for operation on public roads? (Eye level of motorists)
53. Tractor brakes are capable of stopping a tractor under all circumstances? True or False (False)
54. Name a common road condition where traveling in a low gear makes braking more effective? (Traveling up or down hills)
55. An escort vehicle may be required by law if a tractor together with any towed equipment is excessively A) Wide, B) Long C) High D) Any of the above. (D)
56. In Florida, State law specifies what kinds of vehicles may be used as escorts. True or False. (True)
57. What simple precaution can make lighting on tractors and equipment more effective? (Cleaning)
58. A motorist may try to pass your tractor just when you are preparing to turn left. What action on your part might encourage a motorist to make this mistake? (Swinging to the right to make a wide left turn)
59. How can the classic "Left-turn collision" scenario be avoided? (Installation of extension mirrors and using turn signals)
60. The majority of tractor-automobile collisions occur: A) During wet weather, B) At night, C) On dry days in broad daylight. (C)
61. As a rule of thumb, what is the maximum weight a tractor may tow? (Up to 4.5 times its own weight)
62. Towed loads which are hitched above a tractor's drawbar can cause what kind of incident? (Rear overturn)
63. Front-end loaders can make tractors unstable and subject to what kind of incident? (Side overturns)
64. Filling a metal gas can with gasoline increases the static electricity on the can. True or False. (True)
65. The static electricity that builds up on a metal can when it is being filled with gasoline can cause dangerous sparking if the can is sitting on an insulating surface, such as a plastic bed liner. True or False. (True)
66. Long hair is a special danger near a PTO. True or False. (True)
67. The small turning radius of a tractor makes jackknifing more likely. True or False. (True)
68. The faster you are driving the less likely you are to jackknife. True or False. (False)
69. It is generally safer for tractor/ towed equipment combos to drive on the shoulder as much as possible. True or False. (False)
70. Driving your tractor/towed equipment combination on the road shoulder can cause unexpected hazards. True or False. (True)
71. To let a line of cars pass you should: A) Simply wave them around, B) Pull over into the shoulder and keep moving) or C) Pull over and stop. (C)
72. Any metal container is safe for carrying gasoline. True or False. (False)
73. You should always take a second to secure a gasoline container when transporting it. True or False (True)
74. Always keep the nozzle of a gasoline hose in contact with the can while filling. True or False. (True)
75. Using a latch-open device to fill a portable gasoline container can lead to very dangerous spills. True or False. (True)
76. A tractor is more stable on a slope when the front wheels are A) Upslope or B) Downslope from the rear wheels. (Downslope)
77. Driving up a slope in a tractor makes what incident more likely? (Rear overturn)
78. If you sense that the tractor you are operating is becoming unstable, turn the front wheels downhill. True or False. (True)
79. If your tractor gets stuck, what is the first tactic you should try in an effort to get out? (Backing up)
80. Backing up when your tractor is stuck can prevent what incident? (Rear overturn)
81. If backing out a stuck tractor does not work, what is the next thing to try? (Tow it out using a front hitch)
82. When pulling a stuck tractor using a rear hitch, to what device on the tractor should you connect? (Drawbar)
83. When towing use only steel cable or chain. True or False. (True)
84. Nylon tow ropes have been known to break when in use, snap back, and kill the tractor operator. True or False. (True)
85. When pulling out stuck equipment, whose job is riskier: A) The operator of the stuck equipment or B) The operator of the tow vehicle? (B)
86. When purchasing used equipment, you usually "get what you pay for"? True or False. (True)
87. Used equipment can literally cost you an arm or a leg because it may lack customary shields and guards. True or False. (True)
88. It is safe to assume that a tractor operator can operate any kind of tractor. True or False. (False)
89. It is a good idea to re-certify tractor drivers how often? (Annually)
90. An enclosed cab offers adequate protection for extra riders. True or False. (False)
91. Only children as extra riders are a problem because adults can protect themselves on a tractor. True or False. (False)
92. The following types of farm equipment are unsafe for extra riders. (Check all that apply.) A) Tractor, B) All-terrain vehicle, C) Pick-up truck cab, D) Combine. (B; also A and D if they are not equipped with a manufacturer-installed extra seat.)
For more information about these and many other safety topics, contact your county Extension office, or visit the Florida AgSafe Web site:
http://www.flagsafe.ufl.edu "Tractor Fundamentals: Best Practices," North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks. For more information, contact the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Web site: < http://www.nagcat.org >.
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute: <http://www.opei.org>
Safety Management for Landscapers, Grounds-Care Businesses and Golf Courses . Deere and Company. 2001.
"Hand Signals for Agriculture," ASAE Standard S351.
"Operator Controls on Agricultural Equipment," ASAE Standard S335.4.
"Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) for Wheeled Agricultural Tractors," ASAE Standard S383.1.
"Symbols for Operator Controls on Agricultural Equipment," ASAE Standard S304.5.
"Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS)," Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA Standard 1928.51.
"No Riders" decals may be purchased from the Farm Safety 4 Just Kids organization. Call (515) 758-2827.
The following publications are available at your county Extension office and at the EDIS Web site, < http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu >.
(IFAS Publication Numbers are in parentheses after the titles, followed by the Web address to access the publication.)
Table 1. Is a few seconds worth the risk?
|If your risky shortcut saves:||You save this much time for 100 repetitions:||While multiplying your risk of injury by 100!|
|3 seconds||5 minutes|
|5 seconds||10 minutes|
|10 seconds||17 minutes|
Table 2. Isn't your safety worth a few extra seconds?
|Task||Time Invested||100 Repetitions|
|Walking down steps instead of jumping off tractor||7 seconds||12 minutes|
|Walking around the PTO instead of stepping over it||2 seconds||3 1/3 minutes|
|Getting off mower to pick up something instead of leaning over to pick it up as you drive by||20 seconds||33 minutes|
|Remember: The time you invest in performing a task safely is minimal when you compare it to the high financial and emotional costs associated with death, injury and permanent disability.|
Table 3. A tractor cannot stop before running over a thrown rider, no matter how slowly it is going.
(miles per hour)
|How far tractor travels until the average person reacts
Table 4. Size limits beyond which escort vehicles are required
|Alabama||12 ft||75 ft||16 ft||Rear: 5 ft
Front: 10 ft
|Blade or bucket extends beyond the side of the vehicle|
|Florida||12 ft||95 ft||14 ft 6 in||none stated||none stated|
|Mississippi||12 ft||99 ft||none||Rear:15 ft||none stated|
|Information obtained from Department of Transportation Permits Division in each of the respective states.|
Table 5. Tractor operator checklist
|Tractor Operator Checklist
Directions: This checklist is designed to evaluate a tractor operator's abilities to safely maintain and operate a tractor. Mark (x) in the Yes column if the operator can perform the activity, or in the No column if the operator can not perform the activity. Mark the Not Applicable, NA, column if the activity is not appropriate for this tractor or operation.
Make of Tractor _____________________________ Model _________________________
|Activity or Condition||Yes||No||NA|
|Personal Safety Precaution|
|Only operate the tractor if you are physically and mentally alert.|
|Wear close-fitting clothes and proper shoes.|
|Eat and drink in moderation, and do not operate the tractor if you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs or medication.|
|Use basic hand signals.|
|Preparing the Tractor and Equipment for Safer Operation|
|Do not operate the tractor in closed buildings.|
|Check the location and condition of the fire extinguisher.|
|Check the location and condition of the first aid kit.|
|Read and understand decals on the tractor.|
|Make sure that the shield for the PTO and other parts are in place.
|Keep steps and platform free of dirt, grease, and debris.|
|Check if the slow-moving vehicle emblem is in place, clean, and not faded.|
|Test lights to be sure they're working.|
|Check for loose tools and parts.|
|Clean the windows.|
|Read and understand all controls.|
|Check the condition and pressure of all tires.|
|Check oil level; add oil as needed.|
|Check coolant level; add coolant as needed. Do not remove radiator cap when hot.|
|Check the battery's electrolyte level and add battery water as needed. Don't use matches around the battery and don't smoke.|
|Check, clean, coat and tighten battery connections.|
|Clean and oil PTO shaft and splines.|
|Clean, connect and disconnect hydraulic lines.|
|Connect and disconnect electrical connections.|
|Locate all grease fittings and clean and lubricate them.|
|Refuel the tractor, making sure that the engine is cool and refrain from smoking.|
|Adjust wheel width.|
|Add or remove weights.|
|Check if equipment has been properly serviced and adjusted.|
|Starting, Operating, Stopping Tractor and Equipment|
|Never operate the tractor from the ground.
|Make sure that the area is clear of people, pets and obstacles.|
|Adjust seat for comfort.|
|Start the tractor.|
|Check gauges for proper readings.|
|Listen for unusual sounds and shut off the engine if you hear any.|
|Warm engine before applying a heavy load.|
|Raise, lower and extend the drawbar.|
|Check hydraulic controls for proper operation.|
|Engage PTO slowly; check for proper operation.|
|Operate equipment at proper forward speed.|
|Operate equipment at proper PTO speed.|
|Watch and listen to equipment; shut off power at the first sign of a malfunction.|
|Do not unclog, adjust, or service equipment while it is running.|
|Observe all traffic rules when traveling on the road.|
|Lock brakes together for high-speed travel.|
|Shift gears properly.|
|Watch for obstructions in the field.|
|Back slowly, and watch behind.|
|When stuck, back out or have the tractor towed.|
|Leave the tractor in a low gear going down hills.|
|Cool engine, then shut it off.|
|On the following lines, add additional specific checklist items important for your workplace.|
|Tractor Operator Instructions
1. Securely fasten your seat belt if the tractor has a ROPS.
2. Where possible, avoid operating the tractor near ditches, embankments, and holes.
3. Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes, and on rough, slick or muddy surfaces.
4. Stay off slopes too steep for safe operation. If necessary, back up a slope and drive forward going downhill.
5. Watch where you are going, especially at the end of rows, on roads, and around trees.
6. Do not permit extra riders.
7. Operate the tractor smoothly -- no jerky turns, starts, or stops.
8. Hitch only to the drawbar and hitch points recommended by the manufacturer.
9. When the tractor is stopped, set brakes securely, and use park lock if available.
|Tractor Machinery Certification Record
is certified to operate the following tractors or equipment:
Table 6. Tractor safety pre-post test
|Tractor Safety Pre-Post Test
Circle the correct answer or write it in the space provided.
|1.||Most injuries to tractor operators are preventable.||True or False.|
|2.||The safety features on modern tractors can protect the operator from anything.||True of False.|
|3.||Shortcuts usually save very little time while increasing danger to the operator.||True or False.|
|4.||A ROPS will prevent a tractor overturn.||True or False.|
|5.||How often should oil, fuel, and other fluid levels be checked?|
A) A normal part of work which keeps the operator alert and makes him work harder,
|7.||Extra riders on tractors are often injured in what way?|
|8.||At what level should warning lights be placed on tractors and other equipment for operation on public roads?
A) As low as possible,
|A B C|
|9.||The majority of tractor-automobile collisions occur:
A) During wet weather,
|A B C|
|10.||The faster you are driving the less likely you are to jackknife.||True or False.|
1. This document is CIR 1252, one of a series of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published April 2003. Please visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu .
2. Carol J. Lehtola, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Extension Agricultural Safety Specialist; and Charles M. Brown, Coordinator of Information/Publication Services; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Larry R. Arrington, Interim Dean
This document is copyrighted by the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) for the people of the State of Florida. UF/IFAS retains all rights under all conventions, but permits free reproduction by all agents and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service and the people of the State of Florida. Permission is granted to others to use these materials in part or in full for educational purposes, provided that full credit is given to the UF/IFAS, citing the publication, its source, and date of publication.
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