Tractors are often essential on farms, but if they are used incorrectly or not maintained, they can pose a safety risk or even cause death. Fortunately, many tractor accidents are preventable if safety information and rules are taken into consideration.
Follow the Rules
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all agribusinesses that fall under its jurisdiction to follow certain rules. Although these tractor safety rules don’t apply to every situation, always keep them in mind while you’re driving one.
- Remember to fasten your seatbelt if you’re operating a tractor that has a ROPS (rollover protective structure).
- Try your best to avoid operating your tractor around ditches, embankments, and holes.
- Slow down when driving on rough, slick, or muddy surfaces. Also, reduce your speed while turning and crossing slopes.
- Stay off slopes that are too steep for you to safely drive on.
- Watch out for hazards while driving—especially ones that could be at the end of rows, on roads, or around corners or trees.
- Don’t let anyone else ride unless the tractor requires a rider or has a built-in instructional seat.
- Avoid jerky turns, starts, or stops.
- Only hitch to the drawbar and hitch points recommended by the manufacturer.
- Securely set the brakes when the tractor is stopped. Additionally, use the park lock if your truck has one.
- Use common hand signals to communicate with others in the area while driving a tractor.
Operators play an important role when it comes to tractor safety. Not only must they make sure that their truck is in tip-top shape, they have to be fit to drive as well. Operators should follow these suggestions while driving:
- Take frequent short breaks.
- Don’t forget to stretch and move around.
- Stay alert and try to remain as comfortable as possible—discomfort can be distracting and tiring.
- Be sure to drink small amounts of non-alcoholic beverages often.
- Eat moderately.
If you notice someone is sick, tired, angry, or has consumed substances that can adversely affect his/her judgment, attention, or reaction time, then he/she should not be operating a tractor.
While some people can easily forget, always inspect your clothing before driving a tractor. Following this checklist could lead to safer operations:
- Wear comfortable, close-fitting clothes that don’t have loose ends or strings that could get caught in moving parts.
- Opt for shoes with steel-tipped toes and skid-resistant soles.
- Check protective equipment, including head gear, gloves, eye and ear protection, boots, and respirators.
- Tuck longer hair into a hat to prevent it from getting caught in moving parts.
Operators should also perform a few additional checks once they’ve been cleared to drive. Even if a tractor is serviced regularly by a mechanic, these items should still be checked daily:
- Check oil, fuel, and other fluid levels. (This also includes checking for fluid leaks.)
- Make sure that steps and platforms are clean and clear of tools.
- Check tires and their inflation levels.
- Take a listen to the engine transmission and hydraulic system to make sure that they aren’t making any unusual sounds.
- Be certain that all gauges are giving proper readings.
- Check lights, brakes, and the steering mechanism to ensure they are working properly.
Better Safe than Sorry
While tractor safety involves a great deal more than what was outlined here, always remember that prevention is key to reducing tractor accidents.
Want to learn more about tractor safety and other vehicle hazards? Head over to OSHA’s Agricultural Operations page for more information.
Adapted and excerpted from:
C. Lehtola and C. Brown, Road Safety for Tractors and Farm Machinery (ABE303), UF/IFAS Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department (Archived).
Related Sites & Articles
- Hot Topics
- Worker Safety Training
- Community Supported Agriculture
- UF/IFAS Publications
- Good Agricultural Practices
- Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) for Tractors Used in Agricultural Operations
- Small Farmer's Resources for Safety
- UF/IFAS Sites
- Florida AgSafe