Farm safety education begins at the dealer when machinery is purchased.
At Cope Farm Equipment, salesman Ben Johnston said when a purchase is made, the customer is shown how to operate the equipment. When the piece of equipment is delivered, the customer is again instructed on the operation.
“The main thing is to read the operator’s manual,” Johnston said. He added that some of the smaller tractors have a safety DVD included. “From small riding lawn mowers for homeowners to large agricultural tractors, familiarity is the key.”
Cope is a John Deere dealer, and an example of a large tractor would be 100 horsepower, which would be an average size for use on a farm. “Balancing the tractor is very important,” Johnston said.
That comes into play when using attachments. Standard safety equipment on newer equipment will include a seat belt, cab or rollover protection system (ROPS).
The ROPS has a break about halfway up the metal bars, but the only reason to lower it would be to pull the piece of equipment into a building.
Proper tire pressure is important as it affects both comfort of ride and tire wear.
Tips for using accessories such as front-end loaders are to carry the load as low as possible to avoid tip-overs.
When attaching a brush hog, make sure the area is clear of people, pets and livestock. “When the blades are operating, it can shoot rocks at a high rate of speed,” Johnston said. Brush hogs have chain guards and power take-off (PTO) shields.
Users should never have a child or any passenger on the tractor with them, sitting on the fender or sharing a seat. Bigger tractors have an instructor seat inside the cab in case more than one person is needed inside.
When operating the tractor, the braking procedure must be taken into consideration when pulling another piece of equipment, along with acceleration and de-acceleration and terrain.
“Awareness of the PTO operations is important, and make sure you leave the shields and guards in place,” Johnston said.
Larger tractors have the PTO controls mounted on the outside back fender, enabling the operator to keep away from the moving parts.
Proper work attire is also important when operating equipment. Depending on the operation, wear leather work gloves, safety glasses or sunglasses, if needed. Sun protection may also include an enclosed cab or canopy. When working with chemicals, wear rubber gloves, and in some cases a respirator or full protective suit may be appropriate.
On older tractors, there was a lack of safety features and shielding in general. “Machinery gets bigger and better all the time,” Johnston said.
Now, dual-wheel tractors come equipped with extremity lights that extend out over the tires for road safety. Speaking of road safety, make sure all the lights on your tractor or piece of equipment are operational and make sure the vehicle is equipped with a small moving vehicle sign.
Johnston grew up on a farm and still farms in addition to working at Cope Farm Equipment. Over the years he’s seen how equipment and safety features have improved and stresses the importance of being familiar with the operation and to always have safe operation in mind.
Regardless of whether you have a riding lawn mower or a dual-wheeled farm tractor, always remember, safety first.