Ten Tips for Tractor Safety

Oscar H. Will III shares ten tips for tractor safety, including operating a tractor, maintaining tractors, avoiding injuries and advice on machine safety information.

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Tractor brake pedals.

PHOTO: OSCAR H. WILL III

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Take these ten tips for tractor safety to heart when operating a tractor. 

Tractors are inherently dangerous, and accidents involving tractors have claimed thousands of lives and caused many more injuries over the years. These ten tips for tractor safety will help you avoid injuries and tractor accidents. Read and understand all the safety information in the manuals that accompany your tractor before you attempt to operate it. If you are unsure about a particular machine’s operation, there is no pride lost in asking for help — the answers you receive might save your life, or that of a loved one.

  1. Maintain your tractor so that brakes, hydraulic systems, power take-off, tire pressures and such are properly adjusted and in good working order.
  2. If equipped with a Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) never operate the tractor without your seatbelt fastened, unless it is a folding ROPS and you have it folded down for clearance (this should be avoided).
  3. Tractors have a high center of gravity and are much less stable than your car or truck. Exercise extreme caution when operating on slopes and when making turns, especially if the tractor is equipped with heavy implements on the 3-point hitch or a front-end loader. The higher you have the loader or implement raised, the higher the tractor’s center of gravity and the more likely it will be to tip. High-speed turns should always be avoided.
  4. When using your tractor to drag heavy items such as logs, be sure they are hitched to the drawbar and not above it to avoid flipping the tractor over backwards. Chaining a tractor’s axle tubes to a heavy tree trunk and taking off, no matter how low the gear, is sure to lead to disaster.
  5. Stay clear of a spinning PTO or PTO shaft and never operate them without all shields in place. These rapidly turning shafts have an uncanny ability to grab long hair, loose clothing, shoelaces, rope and twine with utterly disastrous results. Should you survive an encounter with a PTO or PTO shaft, you will very likely have lost one or more limbs, your scalp, or at the very least be so broken up that your life will never again be the same.
  6. Tractors can be a fatal attraction, especially to young children and boys of all ages. Invite them to inspect the machine while it isn’t running and teach them to steer clear when it is. The sight of your son or grandson getting pummeled to pieces after his shirttail got caught in the PTO is not something you or your family will ever want to see.
  7. No matter how cold it is outside, never run the tractor in an enclosed space without adequate ventilation. The internal combustion engine produces carbon monoxide, in addition to other asphyxiating gases, that will knock you or your livestock out long before the engine dies.
  8. Never operate the tractor’s engine while you have the engine compartment opened up. The fan and fan belt(s) can reach out and grab you, and the hot exhaust, radiator and other components can burn you.
  9. Never operate a tractor on a public road without an approved Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem on the rearmost implement and appropriate lighting even when not specifically required by law. Flashing lights and the SMV triangle warn motorists that you are traveling at a much slower speed than they are.
  10. No matter how tired you feel, or how late you are going to be, don’t take chances when you are operating a tractor. Don’t choose a higher gear just to get finished before dark, don’t jump off the tractor with the PTO still engaged just to push that branch out of the way. Most machinery accidents occur at the end of a long day when people are in a hurry to finish and more likely to make mistakes and cut safety corners. If you don’t have the time or energy to take these safety tips into consideration, it is time to shut down, plain and simple.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .