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Spring Tractor Safety Tune Up

Posted: March 27, 2014

It seems like this winter will never end, but spring will be around the corner before we know it. When the weather finally does turn favorable for field work, we will all be busy catching up on many tasks around the farm. One thing that should not be neglected is a brush up on safety practices related to tractors and farm equipment.
Youth operating tractor. Photo credit University of Wisconsin Extension

Youth operating tractor. Photo credit University of Wisconsin Extension

Agriculture is a dangerous occupation. We have frequent contact with tractors, machinery, and extreme working conditions. Many injuries that happen on or around tractors can be attributed to safety issues. One of the best things that can be done is become familiar with the operator’s manual of the tractor or equipment. The manual will highlight safe operation and maintenance procedures that should be followed.

Texas A&M Extension offers the following checklist for tractor safety. You can print out a more extensive copy of the checklist (pdf):

  1. Roll-over Protection Structure (ROPS). Is the tractor equipped with a ROPS in good condition?
  2. Guards/shields. Are guards and shields in place and securely fastened?
  3. Seat safety switch. Is the seat safety switch connected and functional to prevent the tractor from being started from the ground?
  4. Brake system. Are the brakes properly adjusted and the fluid level correct?
  5. Tire pressure. Is the air pressure in each tire appropriate according to the tire manufacturer’s recommendations?
  6. Lights/signals. Are all headlights, flashers and brake lights working correctly? Are they clean and visible to other drivers?
  7. Hydraulic system. Are all hoses and connections free from leaks and hydraulic levels correct?
  8. Steering system. Does the tractor steer and react properly when negotiating turns and traveling at highway speeds?
  9. Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem. Does the tractor or equipment have a clean SMV emblem located at the rear of the vehicle that is visible to other drivers?
  10. Cleanliness. Are the steps and cab area free from mud, dirt, ice, oil or any other material?
  11. Fire extinguisher. Is the tractor equipped with at least a 10-puund ABC fire extinguisher that is securely fastened?
  12. First aid kit. Is the tractor equipped with a first aid kit securely fastened inside the cab or operator’s station?

Along with the checklist, it is always a good idea to review some basic safety practices that should be followed at all times. They include:

  • No extra riders. Don’t allow them, and don’t ask to be an extra rider on a tractor. Even in a cab, riders only have limited protection and may interfere with the safe operation of a tractor.
  • Hitch to the drawbar only. Never hitch to the axle or seat bracket. This drastically increases the risk of upsetting the tractor backwards. Engage the clutch smoothly, and avoid sudden acceleration.
  • Stay clear of ditches and embankments. The edge of a ditch or bank may be undercut or weakened and may not be able to support the weight of the equipment. Implements that slip over the edge will tend to pull the tractor with them.
  • Loader accidents are common. Move and turn the tractor at low speeds, while keeping the load low. If needed, add rear weight to balance the tractor.
  • Operating on slopes and hillsides. Keep wheels spread as wide as possible for the job. Watch for rocks, humps, or holes. Make uphill turns with caution; backward upsets are more common when climbing hills, going forward out of a ditch, or overloading a drawbar. If you have to go up a steep slope, back the tractor up the slope.

Contact Information

Dwane Miller
  • Extension Educator, Agronomy
Phone: 570-622-4225 x14