to powerful agricultural machinery occurs most often during
the harvest season Operators may be less familiar with seasonal
equipment used only a few days each year and may not be accustomed
to situations that pose possible dangers or risk. For these
reasons, it is important to be familiar with harvest equipment
and be able to anticipate and avoid potentially hazardous situations.
Tractors are most commonly used to haul various pieces of equipment
needed during harvest. Various field conditions such as ruts,
hills, mud, or the addition of front end loaders can affect
the stability of a tractor. The operator must be constantly
aware of changing conditions and make adjustments as necessary.
Harvesting forage crops may involve mowers, rakes, balers, stackers,,
loaders, and other machines. All have moving parts that can
easily entangle a person who comes in contact with them.
Improper hitching of the implements could cause the tractor
to overturn. Improper maintenance may result in loose parts
flying off and striking bystanders or workers. Trying to unclog
a machine when it is still running is a major reason for serious
Hitting a hole, rut, or stump may cause an overturn, or throw
the operator from the platform of the tractor and cause an accident.
Going too fast, not having clear sight when turning onto the
road, failure to have the proper signs and lights, and not driving
defensively all contribute to accidents.
Driving on the shoulder-half on the road and half off-is dangerous
since it encourages people to pass in possibly unsafe or dangerous
Sudden movements by the truck or tractor can throw workers off
balance. Workers can fall off the platform and be run over by
the machine, or they can lose control of the hay bale causing
it to fall off the platform and strike a worker.
Equipment should be made harvest-ready in the off-season,
or at least several weeks before use.
Review operation manuals and follow maintenance guidelines.
Cleaning, proper lubrication, replacement of worn parts (belts,
chains, springs, hydraulic hoses, etc.), and replacing shields
may save valuable time during the short harvest period.
Secure all guards and shields before starting equipment. These
protective devices reduce the chance that people will get caught
in moving parts.
Examine fields for changes since last fall: debris, limbs
or foreign objects, and driving hazards, such as holes and ditch
formation or undercutting.
Remove stumps, stones, or other debris from the field, or
clearly mark them to prevent upsets, turnovers, and damage to
equipment. Also mark ditches and banks.
Some banks are undercut. You need to be aware that what appears
to be the edge may not be solid, but that there may be an open
space below it.
Plan harvesting so equipment travels downhill on steep slopes
to avoid overturns. Space tractor wheels as far apart as possible
when operating on slopes.
Make sure the hydraulic hoses are clean and in good repair
and hooked up correctly. Check the twine feeding and cutting
mechanisms to see that they are working properly and that your
twine is in good condition.
Keep fluids clean and check often for damage to the system.
Use a piece of cardboard to check for hydraulic leaks, as the
high pressure can penetrate the skin.
Also check the slip clutch, roll scraper and rear gate latch
to make sure they are adjusted and functioning according to
the manufacturer's recommendations.
Many machines also have belts and chains. Keep these in good
repair and have the right tension on them at all times.
Be sure the tractor has front-end ballast. This will prevent
the tractor from tipping backwards
Make sure all machines are hooked up correctly-do not hook
up a 540-rpm mower to a 1,000-rpm PTO. Operating a mower or
forage harvester at excessive speed can cause machine failure
and possible injuries from flying debris if parts fail.
When loading bales manually, be sure that the driver does
not start and stop suddenly. This can throw workers off the
wagon or truck. Make sure workers do not ride on top of the
stack. They could fall off and be run over.
Instruct workers to be aware of the stack condition and where
fellow workers are throwing the bales. Bales falling off the
stack can strike a worker and result in a serious injury. Lock
or secure machines such as headers, bars, stackers, when working
Block the wheels too. This will keep the machine from falling
or rolling on workers as it is being repaired.
Finally, check all lights and warning reflectors, and clean
your slow-moving vehicle emblem. Check your fire extinguisher
to see that it is in proper operating condition.
The flywheel maintains the uniform momentum of a baler's working
parts. It also keeps the machine operating for a considerable
time after power is disengaged. Never attempt to work on a baler
until the flywheel has completely stopped.
The flywheel can be turned manually to permit slow motion
observation of the knotter function.
However, it should never be turned while someone else is working
on the knives, knotter or other moving parts.
There are some key points to consider when harvesting and
handling large round bales.
Equipment used to handle the big bales should be fitted with
rollover protective structures. Never attempt to carry a round
bale in a loader bucket. All loaders should be equipped with
a spear or grapple that is specifically designed for the size
of the round bales being handled.
Loaders should be equipped with a restraining device that
will prevent a loose bale from sliding backwards.
Loaders must be large enough and equipped with sufficient
counterweight to handle bales safely. Set wheels at maximum
width to increase stability.
Avoid steep slopes and rough terrain when moving bales with
a loader. If it is impossible to avoid sloping land, approach
bales from the downhill side.
Avoid sudden stops, starts or changes of direction. Be very
cautious and travel at low speed when carrying a bale. Always
keep bales as low as possible for maximum stability. The risk
of a bale breaking free is greater when loader arms are raised
because the load is less stable.
Wagons used to haul bales should be of sufficient width and
have end racks to prevent bales from moving off the ends and
sides during transport.
.Use good judgment when stacking bales in storage. High stacks
make efficient use of available space, but removal could be
Carefully transport round bales from the field to storage.
Keep the load as low as possible. Use the controls smoothly,
avoiding jerky movements.
Do not travel too fast and make sure that there is adequate
ballast on the front and rear to counter balance the load.
Always disengage the PTO and shut off the tractor/harvester
before working on equipment. Allow the machine to stop before
hooking up wagons.
Doors and shields should be tightly latched to deflect objects
thrown by the cutter.
Stay well clear of the discharge spout while the harvester
is operating. To avoid being hit by objects from the spout,
completely stop the machine before hooking up wagons.
Components may continue to rotate for several minutes after
the power is shut off. Do not open doors until all parts have
Knives must be kept sharp and properly balanced for safe,
effective operation. Follow maintenance procedures specified
in the owner's manual.
Safe completion of any task depends on knowledge, alertness
and hazard awareness.
Fatigue, drowsiness and illness can lead to mishaps in the
field. Recognize when you have had enough, and turn the operation
over to someone else.
Adverse weather adds to harvesting pressure. Do not rely on
stimulants to keep you going or depressants to calm your nerves.
Equipment operators should be dressed for comfort and safety.
Protective footwear and close-fitting clothes are essentials
when working in and around machinery. Wear appropriate safety
gear if noise, dust or toxic materials pose hazards.
Do not allow children around machinery. Far too many tragedies
occur when youngsters end up in the path of equipment and operators
have a restricted view.
To avoid entanglements, always disengage power and turn off
the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine.
Never try to pull or remove twine or wire from a bale case
or knotter when the baler is in operation.
Likewise, never try to feed twine by hand. Even if the engine
is on idle, twine moves through a baler faster than the operator
Always keep protective shields in place. Beware slips or falls
that could place anyone near the machine intake area.
To reduce fall hazards, remember to:
Always keep all platforms free of tools or other objects.
Frequently clean the steps and other areas where workers stand
to service, mount and dismount, or operate the machine.
Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles.
Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.
Be sure your position is stable before you perform maintenance.
Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol, and age
may affect stability. Harvest season comes with many stresses.
Exposure to dangerous situations can increase the mental pressure,
and your risk of injury. Follow safe practices around harvest
equipment to make the most of your work time during this important
It is recommended that the extremities-the widest part of
balers, mowers and forage choppers-have reflectors or reflective
tape on them. This will assist the driving public in recognizing
the width of the towed equipment.
Always return the equipment to the roadway position before
traveling on public roads. This position makes the equipment
as narrow as possible, an advantage when pulling to the side
to allow traffic to pass. Make sure a slow moving vehicle emblem
is on the last piece of equipment being towed.
Heavy crops, rough terrain, and too high a speed can cause clogging
or plugging. The more this occurs, the more the operator is
tempted to leave the machine and tractor running.
- Always disengage the PTO and shut off the tractor. Keep
sickle bars and rotary knives sharp.
Always disengage the PTO and shut off the tractor before working
The flywheel supplies a uniform momentum for operating parts
and will continue to turn even after the PTO is disengaged.
Always allow time for it to stop turning before working on
Knotter operation can usually be viewed by a hand turning
the flywheel. Be watchful for co-workers when two or more are
working on/adjusting equipment.
Extra caution is needed when bale throwers are used because
of potential energy in the unit.
The newer large square baler's pose an even greater risk because
of the larger tractors needed for operation and the weight of
the bales produced.
As always, caution is needed when loading bales by hand onto
wagons. The experience of the stacker and the person driving
the tractor or truck pulling the wagon are important elements
for safely loading and hauling wagons from the field.
The picker's snapping rolls are the most common culprits for
farmer injury because they frequently plug if ground speed is
too fast or slow. When plugged, the rollers still travel freely,
but stalks bunched around the rolls prevent stalks from entering.
In hopes of clearing the plug quickly, farmers may be tempted
to unplug the rollers without stopping the picker and shutting
off the tractor. As the farmer frees the stalk that caused the
plug, it rapidly moves into the roller, sometimes taking the
farmer's hand and arm with it.
Always stop the machine and shut off the tractor before attempting
to unplug the picker.
Like corn pickers, combines have numerous areas where individuals
can be injured if they fail to follow safe operating practices.
These areas, which must remain open for the crop to enter the
machine, must be avoided while the machine is operating.
Never attempt to dislodge stalks or grain sheaves with your
feet or hands while the combine is running.
Always shut down the combine and turn off the ignition before
removing plugged or lodged material.
Most combine adjustments should be made with the machine shut
off to avoid injury to the operator.
While there are certain adjustments that must be made while
the machine is running, such as adjusting the variable speed
cylinder or fan, these procedures are outlined in the owner's
manual and shielding usually provides protection so adjustments
can be made without risk to the operator.
Don't rely on hydraulic cylinders to hold the header up. Use
locks or solid blocks to stabilize the header while working
Properly preparing the combine for transport can reduce the
risk of a combine/vehicle accident. This is done by:
Emptying the grain tank to reduce weight and lower the center
of gravity. Move the unloading auger to the transport position.
When practical, remove the header to reduce width and transport
it on a truck or other implement carrier.
Make sure a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign, lights and reflectors
are in good condition.
Check that the combine is not wider than any bridges or culverts
that must be crossed to reach the field.
Riding on grain wagons or any other tractor-pulled equipment
places the rider at risk for an injury. Children are especially
at risk for falling off a wagon as the wheel hits a bump or
drops into a rut in the farm lane. Grain, as it is being unloaded
from a gravity wagon, can quickly trap and suffocate a child
As the grain flows out the chute it creates a funnel that can
drag a person down toward the opening. The walls of the funnel
may collapse and bury the person, resulting is suffocation if
assistance is not immediately available.
Augers can present several safety risks for farmers and workers,
including entanglement in the auger shaft, electrocution from
touching overhead power lines, and being crushed by the auger
if it unexpectedly collapses.
Collapse of the auger undercarriage during transport and while
in use is another common cause of injuries.
Workers should secure the auger to a vehicle rather than move
it by hand to avoid an up end accident where the end of the
auger becomes top heavy. Get out of the way if the end of the
auger begins to upend and lift the base out of the worker's
There is little that can be done to stop the auger from upending
once the base is lifted above the auger center of gravity. Moving
the auger with a tractor will prevent upending accidents and
leveling the soil in the bin area will reduce side to side rocking.
Once in position, both ends of the auger should be supported
before operation. Crank the auger down far enough so the top
of the auger rests on the grain bin and block the wheels in
Cable or winch failures are another hazard with augers.
Never attempt to stop a freewheeling crank handle with your
hand or foot. Some augers are equipped with a clutch to prevent
freewheeling and others can be raised and lowered with the tractor's
hydraulic system. Proper maintenance and storage increases an
augers life span and reduces accident risks.
Frequently inspect and replace any cables or support legs
that are worn or damaged.
An auger can quickly tangle an operator's hand or foot unless
precautions are taken to prevent entanglement. Keep all shields
in place and warn workers about the dangers of entanglement.
Never use your hand or foot to dislodge grain that is plugging
an auger. Use a stick or rod to loosen a plug. Tools and other
objects should be picked up and put away to prevent someone
from tripping and falling into an auger.
The information and recommendations contained in this publication
are believed to be reliable and representative of contemporary
expert opinion on the subject material. The Farm Safety Association
Inc. does not guarantee absolute accuracy or sufficiency of
subject material, nor can it accept responsibility for health
and safety recommendations that may have been omitted due to
particular and exceptional conditions and circumstances.
© 2002 Farm Safety Association Inc.
22-340 Woodlawn Road West, Guelph, Ontario (519) 823-5600.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.