Tractors have contributed immeasurably to farm productivity
and helped make it possible for farmers to feed not only themselves
but hundreds of others. Although today's tractors are the
safest ever, they are still involved in many farm accidents.
Over the years manufacturers have added many safety features
such as roll over protection, seatbelts, power take-off (PTO)
shields, traveling lights, heated cabs etc. All the safety
features in the world do not replace a well trained operator,
aware of the potential hazards of operating a farm tractor.
Before Using a Tractor:
- Know the tractor and how to use it safely. Review the
safety precautions in the operator's manual regularly. Observe
and follow the instructions contained on warning decals
attached to your tractor.
- Be sure the tractor is properly serviced. Check lubrication,
fuel and water. It is best to check the radiator level when
the tractor is cold. If you must check it when hot, use
- Set the wheel treads as wide as practical and properly
inflate the tires. Make sure guarding is in place and working.
Repair hydraulic leaks and tighten loose fittings. Equalize
the brakes so that the tractor will not pull to one side.
Make sure all drivers are competent and wear their seat
belts if the tractors are equipped with ROPS (rollover protective
structures). Make sure there is clear visibility from all
sides and all lights are visible and working. Keep safety
signs clean and free from obstructing material. Replace
damaged or missing safety signs with new ones.
- After having made a preliminary circle check of the tractor,
fasten the seat belt and adjust the mirrors. You are ready
to start the tractor. Make sure there are no obstructions
in the tractor's intended path. You may start the tractor
and begin work, monitoring performance, particularly when
- Correct any malfunction as soon as possible to avoid
loss of time and unsafe operating conditions. If for some
reason a tractor need to have the battery boosted to start
it, ensure that proper boosting techniques are used. Refer
to the operator's manual if necessary. An operator should
be properly located on the tractor when starting it. Never
by-pass start a tractor.
- Use caution when refueling tractors. There is always
a risk of fire and explosion. Never refuel the tractor while
the engine is running or hot. Always refuel the tractor
outside. Static electricity, a spark from the ignition system
or a hot exhaust could cause the fuel to ignite. Grounding
out the tractor with a ground wire or by dropping mounted
equipment so it touches the ground can reduce static electricity.
- Store your fuel outside. It's best to have fuel storage
at least 40 feet from any building. Keep the area free of
weeds or any other combustible material. Carry a first aid
kit and an approved dry chemical fire extinguisher. Tractors
should have least a five-pound extinguisher.
- Be sure of good ventilation before starting the tractor
engine. Exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which is
odorless, colorless and deadly.
- Keep small children away from tractors. Tractors are
designed to carry only one person-the driver. Each year
small children are killed as a result of falling from the
tractor. The chances of children being killed are just as
great when they are allowed to ride on trailing equipment.
- Tractors can overturn very easily. Fit all tractors with
ROPS (rollover protective structures).
- Raised objects, operating with a front-end loader, and
operating on a steep incline, are just a few of the possible
causes for overturns. Avoid operating near ditches, embankments
and holes. Stay off steep slopes and reduce speed when turning,
crossing slopes, and on rough, slick or muddy surfaces.
- If you must turn on a slope, turn downhill. Drive straight
down even on the gentlest slope, not diagonally across it.
Never coast. Shift to the lowest gear to prevent freewheeling
and excessive braking. Take extra care on slopes when carrying
heavy, high, swaying or unstable loads.
- Keep wheels spread wide whenever possible. A tractor
will overturn sideways much easier if the wheels are close
together. When wheels must be moved in for narrow crop rows,
use extra caution, especially when traveling at higher speeds
- Reduce speed before turning. Doubling the speed of a
farm tractor quadruples the danger of upsetting sideways.
If you try to turn at a high rate of speed, the tractor
will attempt to go straight rather than turn.
- Reduce speed when using a loader. A loader in the raised
position can increase the possibility of overturns. Keep
the loader as close to the ground as possible. Be alert
for ditches, rocks or holes that might cause the tractor
to overturn. The center of gravity is affected if the load
is kept too high in the air.
- Stop the engine before getting off the tractor. Operators
can be killed by a tractor when the tractor has been left
running with the operator not in the seat. Tractors have
accidentally gone into gear while the operator was dismounting.
Tractors left in neutral without the parking brake on have
crushed some individuals.
- Never hitch to the axle or other high point. Hitch towed
loads only to the drawbar and at the manufacturer's recommended
height. When using the three-point hitch, add front weights,
as necessary, to maintain stability and prevent steering
- Use the proper safety clips and pins. Keep your hitches
low and always keep the hitch on the draw bar. This can
help prevent a tractor flipping over backwards. Slowly take
up slack and never jerk on chains or cables; be sure no
loose chains are dangling either from the drawbar or the
implement. They can catch on a stump or rock and pull your
tractor over backwards.
- Broken parts of a chain can act like shrapnel, and a
snapped cable can cut the legs from under a person. Nylon
ropes have killed tractor operators and bystanders when
the rope broke away from an implement.
- Tractors also can upset backwards when pushing, using
a front-end loader, or when hitched to the front end by
chains or cables that pass under the back axle. Keep the
hitch as low as possible, preferably 17 inches. Never get
above 21 inches.
- Be extremely careful when driving up an incline. A tractor
can upset if the center of gravity moves behind where the
rear wheels are in contact with the ground. Try to back
up if it's necessary to get up the incline. If you get caught
on a steep incline, back down very slowly and apply the
brakes lightly. Weight on the front of the tractor will
- Disengage the Power Take-Off (PTO) when it's not in use.
Use the PTO shield whenever equipment is in use.
- Never jump from a moving tractor or turn your back on
the tractor with its engine running. If the tractor starts
to run over you, you may not be able to stop it.
- Do not wear loose clothing while operating a tractor.
Loose clothing can catch on moving parts and cause an accident.
- Keep the tractor in gear when going down hill. This allows
the tractor engine to serve as a brake. Some tractors may
have "free wheeling" in their transmission drive. Make sure
this type of transmission is put in direct drive before
attempting to use the engine as a brake.
- Engage the clutch gently, especially when going uphill.
`Jackrabbit' starts are dangerous to both the operator and
- Never attach a post or log to the rear wheels when the
tractor is stuck in the mud. If the wheels are not free
to turn, the tractor can pivot around the axle and upset.
Try to back out. If this does not work, get another tractor
to pull you out. Make sure that the towing tractor has roll
over protection and a seatbelt.
- The tractor operator must follow all traffic rules on
open roads. This includes proper lighting, hand signals,
- Do not use a tractor for a job it wasn't designed to
do. The tractor was designed as a source of power to do
field work. It was not designed for chasing cattle, drag
racing, or transportation to and from town.
- Keep all shields and guards in place. Do not operate
equipment with missing shields or guards.
- Shut off engine and be sure implement motion has stopped
before performing adjustments or maintenance.
- For some attachments, use counterweight for stability.
Lift rear-mounted attachments and drive slowly when making
sharp turns. Raise and lower attachments slowly and smoothly.
- Train new and inexperienced operators. Have them review
the operator's manual before operating the tractor. Teach
the new operator to recognize hazards and know how to avoid
them. Point out special hazards on the farm. Do not let
them drive on public roads under the age of 16. It is suggested
that an operator should have a driver's license to take
equipment on the roadway.
- Have the new tractor operator practice, without equipment
attached, in a level field or a large, level yard. The trainer
should start the tractor, demonstrating the procedure for
the new operator. The trainer should drive the tractor around
the yard, showing the student how each of the controls operates.
The trainer may need to be on the tractor as the student
drives it. In such a case, extreme caution must be exercised.
The trainer can give instructions as the student drives.
- After the new operator has learned to operate the tractor
alone in a level area, the next step is to attach and operate
the equipment. The new operator should gradually work into
the more complex jobs of tractor operation.
entering the cab, remove personal protection equipment (PPE)
worn while handling and mixing chemicals.
the cab is a type that will not protect a person during
product application, it may be best to continue wearing
are other suggestions to keep the tractor cab chemical free:
contaminated soil and debris from shoes or boots before
entering the cab.
the floor clean by sweeping or vacuuming. Wipe down the
cab headliner or inside cowling.
the tractor exterior to reduce the exposure to chemicals.
grasp the steering wheel while wearing gloves that were
worn during handling or mixing chemicals.
the control knobs and steering wheel regularly with grease
cutting agent or solution.
- Never use a tractor for a task it is not designed for.
Tractors are implement carriers, transport units and remote
- Tractors are not recreation vehicles, tow trucks or vehicles
to run errands.
- Never use a tractor for joy riding or herding cattle.
- When done working for the day, park farm machinery in
a safe place.
- Disengage the PTO, lower equipment to the ground, turn
off the engine, put the transmission into neutral or park,
set the brakes and remove the key. Never leave the vehicle
Shutting off diesel tractors requires more than turning the
key. Follow the instructions in your operator's manual or as
recommended by the manufacturer.
Giant four-wheel-drive tractors are now used on many farms.
Though most safety recommendations apply to both large and small
tractors, there are special safety concerns when operating super-sized
tractors. The tractor's dimensions may cause difficulties in
tight places, at corners and gates, and on narrow roadways.
Overhead clearances, especially around power lines, may cause
The unique steering systems of large 4-wheel-drive tractors
present new handling problems, especially for beginning drivers.
All-wheel steering can shift a towed device into an unexpected
path. Articulated steering changes the rig's center of gravity
so that an overturn can occur under unexpected conditions. With
articulated steering, high-speed road travel requires more operating
skill than conventional tractor steering does. If an operator
steers a unit with articulated steering while it is standing
still, a bystander can be trapped in the hinge region.
- All new tractors carry warnings, but it is the operator's
responsibility to be sure everyone is clear before starting
or maneuvering the machine.
Watch your step. Use the handholds when climbing up
and down the cab access steps or ladder.
- Clear them of mud and ice. Clean your shoes or boots
before mounting the tractor.
- Refuel with care. It takes longer to fill the big
tanks. You may have to climb up and find a secure position
from which to refuel.
- Do not smoke while refueling.
- Be sure everyone is out of the way before moving.
A child, worker or animal next to or under a big rig
may be hidden from view.
- Drive slowly when approaching tight turns, narrow
gates, buildings and overhead obstructions that are
not problems for smaller tractors. Remember heavily
ballasted, big tractors cannot stop quickly.
- When the tractor tows a heavy wagon without brakes,
the added load might increase the stopping distance
to an unsafe degree, especially on downgrades. Slow
down early. Equip large wagons with brakes. Keep tractor
brakes properly adjusted and equalized.
- Steer articulated four-wheel drive tractors with care
at transport speed to assure straight-line tracking.
Slow down if the tractor's rear section begins to fish
tail. Avoid steep side slopes. Do not pull so far to
the right on roads that rightside wheels are in the
ditch. The rear section of the tractor could then slide
into a jack-knife position, resulting in loss of control
or an overturn.
- Be sure that small bridges, floors and flatbeds will
support the big tractor's weight and width before driving
onto these surfaces.
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.
Copyright © 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
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