WA FACE: Farm Laborer Caught in Hay Baler

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  The laborer's legs were caught
  in the baler's machinery when
  the PTO was turned on while
  he was lubricating the gears.
  The bull gear/plunger shield
  is shown in its raised position.
  It was lowered during the

Industry: Hay farming
Task: Greasing baler gear box
Occupation: Laborer
Type of Incident: Caught in machinery
Incident Date: June 6, 2016
Release Date: October 24, 2016
SHARP Report No.: 71-152-2016

In June of 2016, a 29-year-old hay farm laborer’s legs were seriously injured when they were caught in a hay baler’s machinery.

This was the second season that the laborer had worked on his employer’s hay farm. His job duties included driving tractors with pull-type hay balers.

On the day of the incident, the laborer had finished baling hay for the day. He then went to do routine maintenance on the baler by greasing its bull gears. These two gears are driven by a flywheel which is powered by the PTO. The gears in turn power the plunger and the feed fork which together produce bales. The manufacturer’s specified method of spreading the grease on the gears was to put grease in the luber compartment while hand turning the flywheel and the lube pump crank.

The laborer could not get the hand crank on the bull gear luber to turn. His employer told him that if the crank would not turn to get up on the baler and grease the gears directly. The employer had made two holes on top of the shield surrounding the bull gear and plunger so that grease could be poured directly onto the gears. The employer’s practice was then to turn on the power through the PTO to the baler to activate the gears and distribute the grease.


  Reenactment of the incident scene on top of the baler showing
  where the laborer was standing when the PTO was activated
  by another laborer.


greasing box
  The bull gear luber which is the
  manufacturer’s specified method of
  lubricating the baler’s bull gears.
  The hand crank (arrow) would not
  turn, so the laborer did not use this

Both the manufacturer’s operating manual and safety stickers on the baler stated that the tractor motor should be shut off when fueling, lubricating, or adjusting the machine. As the laborer was standing on top of the baler pouring grease through one of these holes, another worker thought he was signaling to turn on the PTO and did so. The laborer was standing on the plunger in a 4½-inch gap between a baler brace and the plunger when it started to move up and down. Both his legs were caught in the machinery. The operator realized what had happened and turned off the PTO.


First aid was given and emergency services personnel responded. He was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery. His legs were broken in numerous places and he had other serious injuries to his legs. Four months later he was still unable to work.


  • Employers must develop, document, and use procedures to control potentially hazardous energy when employees are engaged in the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected startup of the machine or equipment or release of stored energy could cause injury to employees.
    See WAC 296-307-32013(1)


caution operation on the baler signs
Stickers on baler with instructions for safe operation of baler.



  • Ensure that safe work practices are followed, including disengaging the PTO and shutting off the tractor engine prior to working on PTO powered equipment.
  • Maintain and operate machinery according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Equipment operators should familiarize themselves with the manufacturer’s operating manuals. These manuals are critical sources of safety information and should be available for reference.
  • Repair broken or malfunctioning equipment.
  • Do not alter equipment or machinery unless approved and specified by the manufacturer.


This narrative was developed to alert employers and employees of a serious traumatic injury to a worker in Washington State and is based on preliminary data ONLY and does not represent final determinations regarding the nature of the incident or conclusions regarding the cause of the injury.

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Developed by WA State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), WA State Dept. of Labor & Industries. The FACE Program is supported in part by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 2 U60 OH008487-11). For more information, contact the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program, 1-888-667-4277.

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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. More