Tractor Safety: Gearing up for a Safe Harvest
Get an introduction to tractor safety.
In cooler climates like Canada, many tractors sit idle during the winter months because it is simply too cold to operate the machinery safely. Thus, each season when the planting and harvesting seasons come around, it is essential to review your machine operating procedures to ensure that it has been serviced properly, and that you are aware of any additions or repairs that have been made. This is important to do, whether operating a new machine, or your own familiar tractor.
Tractors are used for much more than harvest, and as any equipment operator knows, it is important that you run your daily safety checks to prevent any blowouts or accidents. If it is your first time using the equipment since last season, then you will have to inspect your machine more thoroughly. Start by checking the oil, coolant, and other fluid levels to ensure that they are still at a favorable level. After fluid levels are checked, ensure the machine has fuel. Before starting the machine, do a walk around to ensure that there are no obstructions that you might hit, and that the tire path is clear. This will also give you a chance to see if there have been any fluid leaks. Also, small animals have a tendency to nest in unused machinery, specifically around the tires and axels, and the engine bay. Be sure to check these areas before staring your machine.
Remember, you are using a much bigger vehicle than you may be used to, so potential threats are more likely. To understand your danger areas, you will need to look at the clearance guide for how much room you need to safely operate. Remember these clearance restrictions as you move along in new or unfamiliar terrain. Vehicle awareness is a key component in safe machine operation.
Mounting and Dismounting
Common injuries surrounding tractor use occur during the mounting and dismounting of the machine. When entering or exiting a tractor, it is important to not only put the machine in park, but also to anchor using either the bucket or blades. This will prevent the machine from rolling forward if the parking break fails, or you fail to remember to put it on. Since tractors are designed to travel across a wide variety of terrain with their large wheels, they are more subject to roll down a hill on their own, unlike smaller wheeled vehicles that may snag or hold when rolling onto a block. If you plan on using wheel blocks when parking the tractor on a hill, keep in mind that the wheels are much larger than average, so larger wheel blocks will be required.
Warm Ups Aren't Just for People
For safe operation, it is recommended that you let your machine warm up for a good 5-15 minutes depending on your location, temperature, and how long it has been since its last use. Warming it up is done by starting the machine and letting it idle so fluids can transfer and lubricate the machine prior to use. While the machine is idling, it is good practice to do a secondary walk around the vehicle to ensure that there are no fluid leaks that were unseen during the initial check. It also allows you to hear what the engine sounds like outside of the cab.
Once a tractor is in motion there are several things to consider. If you are pulling a load, that must be a consideration when assessing the potential risks of operation. Depending what you are pulling, whether it be a plough, a disc, or a seeder, you must consider your terrain. It is the operator that must ask whether or not the equipment is made for the terrain that it is being used on, or if it can be altered or modified to suit the terrain. In certain situations you might consider raising or lowering your equipment using the three point hitch to increase your mobility, or increase drag and slow the tractor.
Same Features, Same Rules
Many tractors have nice seats, but drivers are often neglectful of their seatbelts. Tractors and other heavy machinery are still moving vehicles. While not as common of an accident, it is quite easy for operators to be ejected from their seats when operating the machines. The terrain is highly variable, bumpy, and uneven. These factors make it more likely for a tractor to tip, or roll. Be sure to buckle up whenever a seat belt is provided. Remember, it's there for a reason.
Are you ready to get to work? Do your safety inspections, review the operating manual and safety procedures, don't forget your PPE, and enjoy the harvest!
Written by Rob Chernish