As part of Farm Safety Week, each day we will be highlighting farm safety tips in the hopes of raising awareness and reducing the number of accidents on Irish farms.
Tractors and farm machinery are the main cause of farm accidents in Ireland. Being entangled in power take-off (PTO) drive shafts, crushed under a machine part, caught in a machine mechanism, crushed between vehicles and struck by a machine object are the main causes of deaths with farm machinery highlighted by the Health and Safety Authority.
Caroline Farrell of the Irish Farmers Association shared this message with the agricultural community for Farm Safety Week: “We are calling on farmers not to rely on luck when working. Agricultural machinery is dangerous and can rip off a limb or kill in seconds.
“Always ensure equipment is switched off when making routine checks or maintenance. Always take your time to think about what you are doing and what might go wrong. Making a few simple checks could actually save a life - maybe your own,” she said.
PTO drive shaft
The PTO is one of the oldest and most deadly hazards associated with the use of farm machinery. It takes less than 1 second to become entangled by a PTO shaft revolving at 540 rpm.
Most PTO-related accidents occur when the machine is stationery, for example when handling slurry or mixing and grinding animal feed. Many PTO shaft accidents have occurred because clothes got caught up. Loose clothing, such as flapping high-vis vests, are extremely dangerous around fast-moving belts, shafts and chains.
- All PTO drive shafts must be fully guarded by enclosing them along their full length from the tractor to the first bearing on the machine;
- Check the guards on a regular basis for damage and wear;
- Always replace damaged guards without delay as even slightly cracked or damaged guards can pose a risk of entanglement;
- Disengage the PTO before clearing blockage;
- Do NOT wear loose clothing when operating machinery.
Galway dry stock farmer, Peter Gohery, was severely injured and almost died when he became entangled on an unguarded PTO shaft.
Machinery Key Safety Guidelines
- Match the loader to the tractor - avoid using an oversized loader;
- Avoid over-loading. Always keep the loader in a low position when carrying loads or when operating on sloping ground;
- Never allow people to stand, walk or work under a raised loader;
- Regularly check the pins, bushings and mounting bolts on the loader;
- Check for leaks in the hydraulic hoses and repair immediately. Leaks will lead to the oil pressure dropping allowing the loader to drop down suddenly;
- Always lower the loader to the ground when the tractor is parked;
- Avoid overhead power lines. Always be aware of the full height of the loader when in use.
- Ensure all guards are fitted on the machine before work begins;
- Ensure all operators are fully trained and understand how to operate the baler;
- Operators must avoid rushing the job;
- Follow safe systems of working, particularly when clearing blockages and rethreading the machine;
- If there is a blockage always stop the machine, disengage the PTO and turn off the tractor engine;
- If the grass row is uneven or is damaged by poor weather, move or reform it so that it is easier to lift with the machine;
- Always prop up the tailgate with the ram provided;
- Always release round bales from the machine at the bottom of sloping ground - never on a hill.
- Ensure that all operators are made aware of the risks and understand how to operate the machine safely;
- Always stop the engine, put controls in neutral position and take out the ignition key before doing any cleaning and maintenance work;
- Beware of overhead power lines in the fields;
- Follow safe work practices, for example, use supports when working under the header, avoid injury when working on the cutting knives;
- Ensure all machine guards are in place before use;
- Clean straw and chaff from the engine area regularly;
- Ensure suitable fire-fighting equipment if fitted and serviced regularly;
- Close the cab door to avoid ingestion of grain dusts;
- Take your time when working with difficult crops - lodged or sprouted.
- Ensure the PTO is adequately guarded. Many standard machines require the pump to be operated manually in relatively close proximity to the PTO shaft;
- Maintain the PTO shaft and cover and replace a damaged PTO guard immediately;
- Make sure the PTO shaft tubes can slide and are not seized up following periods of rest;
- Check that the universal joints are not seized up and there is no wear on the joints;
- Check that the hydraulic piping is not damaged;
- Check the hydraulic controls on modern tankers;
- Check for leaks on the hydraulic ram.
- Know how the diet feeder works and the risks involved;
- Ensure all the guards are fitted securely before operating the machine;
- Ensure the PTO shaft is correctly guarded at all times;
- Always disconnect the PTO and hydraulics before carrying out maintenance on the machine;
- Do not attempt to access the mixing chamber when the machine is working;
- Ensure the diet feeder area is always kept clear of people especially children and elderly;
- Never remove the chain guards or inspection plates when the machine is running;
- Regularly check all chains, sprockets, bearings and other moving parts;
- Where a climbing ladder is provided to allow observation of the mixing process inside the diet feeder, do not lean in over the top edge of the machine. Both hands must be used to maintain a grip while standing on the ladder;
- Under no circumstances should any attempt be made to manually remove plastic covering from silage bales while standing on the ladder;
- Under no circumstances should any attempt be made to pull plastic out of the mix while the machine is working.
Grass mowers and toppers
- Ensure all operators understand the operating instructions;
- Ensure all parts of the mower are correctly guarded;
- Check the guards before starting work;
- Keep the skirting in good condition and replace if necessary;
- Stop the tractor engine and disengage all controls before leaving the tractor;
- Use suitable protective clothing when carrying out maintenance work.
You have no chance against the weight and power of the tractor or other farm vehicles and machinery. Take action to prevent accidents with tractors and machinery.Further reading on the safe operation of farm machinery can be found on the Health and Safety Authority website.