Utility Tractor Safety

Protect yourself from tractor accidents

The accident: A 29-year-old landscaper is operating a tractor with a mowing implement on a hilly area behind a residential property. He is listening to music through headphones and is not wearing his safety belt. He makes a sharp turn on a steep slope, and the tractor rolls to the side, pinning him between the rollover protection structure (ROPS) and the ground. He dies of his injuries.

The bottom line: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than 80 percent of the nearly 100 tractor-related deaths reported annually involve rollover accidents. Rollover accidents happen when the tractor is in an unstable situation such as on an incline, in a high-speed turn or when starting off in a low gear with a high engine speed. In this case, the worker’s violation of several safety rules led to the accident and its severity. He was distracted, made a quick turn on uneven ground and was not wearing the safety belt that could have protected him.

Tractor accidents happen so fast; reacting quickly enough to prevent them is almost impossible. However, according to OSHA, ROPS and seat belts used together can prevent more than 99 percent of rollover deaths and serious injuries. Other common tractor accidents include run-overs, being caught in moving parts and collisions.

Tips to protect against tractor accidents:

• Make sure the equipment is well maintained.

• Only operate equipment with both ROPS and seat belts, and wear the safety belt.

• Walk the site and become familiar with the terrain before operating.

• Reduce speed before turning.

• Use engine braking when going downhill.

• Avoid crossing steep slopes and use extra care on any incline or slope.

• Stay away from ditches and riverbanks.

• Keep hands, feet and clothing away from rotating parts.

• Stay off highways as much as possible.

• Only start engines outside, never in an enclosed garage.

• Never walk between the tractor and implement.

• Hitches should be low and on the drawbar to prevent the tractor from rolling over backward.

• Never dismount a moving tractor. Always shut it down before leaving the seat.

• Never refuel while the engine is hot or running.

• Don’t add coolant to the radiator while the engine is hot or running.

• Focus on the job, and don’t hurry or take short cuts.

• Never allow a child aboard your tractor.

• Do not operate tractors or any equipment if you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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