Ag Safety and Health, Springtime Preparations

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year on a farm and sometimes things are so busy that safety is not given the priority that it needs to keep everyone safe.
Ag Safety and Health, Springtime Preparations - Articles


Below are some ways to help improve safety and decrease the risk of injury at your farm operation.

Youth Workers

Are you planning to hire youth to work at your farm operation? If so, are you aware of the U.S. Department of Labor's Hazardous Occupations Order in Agriculture (Ag HO)? Since 1969, the U.S. Department of Labor has declared many agricultural tasks to be hazardous to youth younger than 16. With certain exemptions, employment of youth under 16 for tasks that require operation of a tractor and machinery is illegal unless the youth are certified. By successfully completing a certification program, 14 and 15 year old youth may legally operate farm tractors and powered machinery for hire which they otherwise would not be allowed to operate under the U.S. Department of Labor's AgHO. More information about certification through the National Safe Tractor and machinery Operation Program .

Train Your Workers

Before you embark on a busy spring, take time to provide your workers with training on all aspects of the farm operation. Some suggested training topics to cover include location of first aid kits and emergency contact information, safety protocols around equipment (e.g., turn off the tractor before doing any maintenance, etc.), proper clothing for specific jobs (e.g., no flip flops, no loose fitting clothing around PTO, etc.) and daily pre-operational checks for tractors and equipment. Consider organizing a safe tractor operation workshop for your workers. If you need an outline for a workshop for your employees, our guide to teaching safe tractor operation  will help you with the process.

Lighting and Marking for Travel on Public Roads

Special precautions need to be taken when moving tractors and equipment on public roadways. Most agricultural equipment travels at less than 25 mph while other motor vehicles travel at much greater speeds and they underestimate the amount of braking time needed to avoid a collision. Most states require a slow moving emblem (SMV) on the back of all tractors, towed implements and self-propelled implements. Guidelines and recommendations were developed for lighting and marking of farm equipment that travel on public roadways. For a complete breakdown of lighting and marking requirements in Pennsylvania, visit the Rx for SMV Highway Safety  article by Penn State Ag Safety and Health.

Pre-Operational Checks

Winter and early spring is the perfect time to doing maintenance on your equipment, but there are several things that you should do on a daily basis prior to using your tractor. By doing a pre-operational check on your tractor, you may prevent costly repairs, down time for repairs and frustrations. Check out the ' Top 10 Pre-Operational Checks for Tractors '.

PTO Guarding

The Power Take-Off (PTO) shaft transfers mechanical power from the tractor to an implement. This transfer of power is efficient but also presents a potential entanglement hazard that could result in serious injury or death. Preventative steps in reducing a PTO entanglement incident include the following:

  • Keep all components of PTO systems shielded and guarded. - PTO shields can be purchased from the Northeast Center.
  • Regularly test driveline guards by spinning them to make sure that they are not stuck to the shaft.
  • Disengage the PTO and shut off the tractor before dismounting to clean, repair, service, or adjust machinery.
  • Always walk around tractors and machinery instead of stepping over a rotating shaft.
  • Always use the driveline recommended for your machine. Never switch drivelines among different machines.
  • Position the tractor's drawbar properly for each machine used to help prevent driveline stress and separation on uneven terrain and during tight turns.
  • Reduce PTO shaft abuse by observing the following: avoid tight turns that pinch rotating shafts between the tractor and machine; keep excessive telescoping to a minimum; engage power to the shaft gradually; and avoid over tightening of slip clutches on PTO-driven machines.
  • Be sure PTO driveline is securely locked onto the tractor PTO stub shaft.
  • Keep universal joints in phase. (If unfamiliar with this term, check the operator manual or talk with a farm implement dealer.)

It is important to reduce the risk of injury and death on the farm because agricultural owners, operators, and workers are so vital to our communities. Have a safe and successful spring season at your farm operation!