Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Look in the back of any farm pickup and you’re likely to see a set of rusty log chains that will come in handy when a friend or neighbor gets stuck in a ditch or a field.

But without proper precautions, those handy chains can be deadly, says University of Missouri Extension rural safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

Every year hundreds of people with neighborly intentions are injured or killed in accidents while trying to pull out a stuck farm vehicle. Lost time in the field means lost money, and that leads many to proceed without caution and proper equipment, Funkenbusch said.

Shortcuts can cause chains, straps and clevises to snap and strike drivers, passengers or bystanders. Broken metal chains can become deadly missiles that crash through window glass, sending debris flying with tremendous force and speed.

Hooks and links should have a rating capacity equal to the chain and operators should know those ratings.

Know how deep the stuck vehicle is, she said. If the vehicle is stuck on a slick surface such as snow, it may pull out easily by simply getting the vehicle to move forward, but if the axle is buried, you will need more towing power. You should know if the tailpipe is covered and dig out around the tires to break the suction of the mud. Know the size of the towing equipment and make sure the towing vehicle is large enough. Apply power slowly and smoothly, and remain calm, Funkenbusch says.

To prevent broken chains from flying through windshields, Funkenbusch recommends lifting a toolbox lid to protect the back of the truck and raising the hood to protect the front windshield.

Another suggestion is to put a tire on the towing device to weigh it down and prevent it from going through a windshield if it breaks, Funkenbusch said. Also, remember to have nonessential people leave the scene, and never mix alcohol and towing.

Funkenbusch gives the following recommendations on when it is time to call a professional rather than rely on a friend or relative for help:

  • If the towing vehicle’s tires spin and smoke.
  • If attachments such as chains and straps break.
  • If multiple chains, ropes or straps are needed.
  • If you don’t know rated capacity for towing equipment.
  • If extracting the vehicle requires a running start from the towing vehicle. It is natural instinct to back up and get a running start to yank out equipment, but this is the worst mistake you can make with a chain, because they can snap.
  • If tempers flare.

It’s one thing to pull out stuck equipment, but quite another when the equipment is carrying potentially hazardous materials such as pesticide spray, fertilizer, liquid manure or fuel. If the stuck vehicle is carrying hazardous material, Funkenbusch offers this advice to protect the environment:

  • Consider unloading materials from the stuck vehicle to reduce weight and prevent spillage. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of spillage, the load will be lighter. Isolate the pumps and materials.
  • Inspect hoses and fittings to make sure they are intact and won’t be ripped off as the vehicle is pulled.
  • Have protective equipment and emergency numbers on hand in case of a spill.

If all else fails, Funkenbusch said, take your time and call a professional. A sense of urgency has been the beginning of many a catastrophe.

Media Contact