University of Missouri Extension

G1960, Reviewed October 2002

Safe Tractor Operation

David E. Baker
Agricultural Engineering Extension

In 1999 about 780 people in the United States died in agricultural work accidents; nearly 130,000 suffered disabling injuries. The estimated cost of these accidents approached $4.5 billion.

No one deliberately has a tractor accident. Recent studies show that tractors accounted for two out of every five accidents.

Overturns have the highest fatality rate of tractor accidents occurring on the farm. To decrease this death rate, the U.S. Department of Labor established the Rollover Protective Structure Standard, more commonly known as the ROPS Standard.

The standard requires that all tractors manufactured after Oct. 26, 1976, and used by employees must have rollover protective structures. It also requires that employees receive training in the nine areas of safe tractor operation outlined here. Such training shall be given at the time of initial assignment and at least annually thereafter. The purpose of this guide is to assist employers and employees in this training.

Farm employers should review this guide with anyone who operates a farm tractor.

Safe operation

The most important point of tractor safety is knowing your tractor. Know how the tractor handles and be alert to meet all potential emergencies. A good tractor operator has read the manual and practices these safety habits.

Buckle up. Figure 1
Buckle up if your tractor is equipped with a rollover protective structure.
 

Keep your tractor behind the shear line. Figure 2
When operating near ditches and banks, always keep your tractor behind the shear line.
 

Centrifugal force tends to pivot the tractor on its outside wheels. Figure 3
Centrifugal force tends to pivot the tractor on its outside wheels.
 

Keep side-mounted equipment on uphill side.Shift to a lower gear before going downhill.
Figure 4
Keep side-mounted equipment on uphill side if possible, and shift to a lower gear before going downhill.
 

Slow moving vehicle emblem.Figure 5
Display the slow moving vehicle emblem with the point at the top and between two and six feet from the ground.
 

Drive on sound shoulders of main highways when traffic is heavy. Drive on sound shoulders of main highways when traffic is heavy.
 

No passengersFigure 6
Observe the "No Passengers" rule.
 

Fishtailing or severe braking at high speed can cause jackknifing and rollover. Figure 7
Fishtailing or severe braking at high speed can cause jackknifing and rollover.
 

Hitching mistakes can cause tractor upset. Figure 8
Hitching mistakes can cause tractor upset.
Hitching mistakes can cause tractor upset.
 

Set the parking brake or shift into park. Figure 9
To avoid this, set the parking brake or shift into park.
 

Daily maintenance check

Practicing the safety hints, reading the owner's manual and performing the daily maintenance check will increase probability of operating a tractor safely.

G1960, reviewed October 2002

G1960 Safe Tractor Operation | University of Missouri Extension

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