Fall has arrived in the lovely state of Alabama, and a tractor safety refresher never hurt anyone. Jimmy Jones, Alabama Cooperative Extension System coordinator in Henry Co., offers a few important reminders for all tractor operators and farm families during harvest season. Farmers have likely heard these safety tips before, but they are important to remember.
1. “One Seat, One Driver”
This rule is important to remember for both children and adults. Children want to get out there with mom and dad, but sometimes it is not safe for them to do so.
“If it has one seat, there’s only one rider,” Jones said. Riding children, or other passengers, with you on a one seat tractor can result in serious injury. Fields are not flat; there are many holes, ditches and bumps. “[Kids] could easily be bounced off, and next thing you know they could end up under the tire, and we don’t want to go there as far as how much damage that could do.”
Jones suggests not to drive family members on the tractors unless there are two seats, with seat belts, for a passenger to be safely secured. “It’s a very important time of year for farmers, but we want to be sure we’re looking out for those young folk on the farm.”
2. Safety Guards Save Lives
Always check to make sure your safety guards are on.
“We have accidents each year where someone has taken off a piece of covering off a PTO,” Jones said. Clothing can get wrapped in the drive shafts of the tractor, which could cause injury, so make sure all safety guards are intact before use.
3. Wrangle the Triangles
The red reflective triangle is a universal sign for a slow-moving vehicle. This time of year, peanut and cotton farmers are moving large, wide equipment down the road. It is important to have reflective pieces on all of your equipment so other drivers can see you on the road.
It is important to have reflective pieces on all of your equipment so other drivers can see you on the road. “Pay particular attention to the slow-moving vehicle triangles that you are driving, as well as the equipment you are pulling behind your tractor,” Jones said.
Also, try not to move equipment after dark. It is a hazard to you and other drivers to be pulling wide equipment at night, especially without proper flashers and reflective triangles.
“We urge farmers to shut [the tractors] off, go home and get up the next morning and try to move in daylight because most accidents happen in the dark,” Jones explained.
4. Do Not Push Yourself Too Far
Working long hours on a 95-98-degree day is tough. In a normal harvest season, it is not uncommon for farmers to miss meals and work non-stop. Taking care of your health is important and cannot be ignored.
“Taking short breaks to refresh yourself and get hydrated can stop many accidents,” Jones said. “This is heavy equipment that takes a lot of concentration to operate.” A lapse in concentration can cause harm to you, someone else, or your machine.
“I’ve been a farmer for years, I already know this!”
Even experienced farmers can make mistakes. To put the importance of tractor safety into perspective, Auburn resident and owner-operator of Deer Park Farms in Street, Maryland, Nathan Barringer shares a story of a close call.
“As a grower, I always keep it in the back of my mind that today could be the day something bad happens,” Barringer said. “As a manager of my family’s operation, I often find myself orientating new workers and monitoring the safety of my employees.”
“One of our farm’s most seasoned employees forgot about the pinch point that occurs at the linking pin this summer and lost her entire fingernail, and almost her finger. The baler had lurched backward while she was hooking up a wagon. This could have easily been avoided if she had kept her hands clear of the pinch point.”
Understanding the equipment and knowing all safety hazards is important for anyone operating it. “Most days we wake up and do a job we absolutely love to do,” Barringer said, “But there will always be that clear and present danger that we must acknowledge and respect.”
Take a few minutes to review the safety guidelines of your equipment to ensure proper use. For more information, click here to read other farm safety tips from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website.