By Katie Smith
Fall has arrived in Alabama, and it is time for some tractor safety refresher tips. Jimmy Jones, Alabama Cooperative Extension System coordinator in Henry County, offers a few important reminders for all tractor operators and farm families during harvest season. Farmers have likely heard these safety tips before, but they are important to remember.
1. “One Seat, One Driver”
This rule is important to remember for both children and adults. Children want to get on the tractor with mom or dad, but sometimes it is not safe for them to do so.
“If it has one seat, there’s only one rider,” Jones said. “Riding children or other passengers with you on a one seat tractor can result in serious injury. Fields are not flat; there are many holes, ditches and bumps. Kids can easily be bounced off, and they could end up under the tire. We don’t want to go there as far as how much damage that could do.”
Jones says don’t drive family members or others on a tractor unless there are two seats, with seat belts, for a passenger to be safely secured. “It’s a very important time of year for farmers, but we want to be sure we’re looking out for kids on the farm.”
2. Safety Guards Save Lives
Always make sure your safety guards are on.
“We have accidents each year where someone has taken a piece of covering off a PTO,” Jones said. Clothing can get wrapped in the drive shafts of the tractor, which could cause injury, so make sure all safety guards are intact before use.
3. Wrangle the Triangles
The red reflective triangle is a universal sign for a slow-moving vehicle.
This time of year, peanut and cotton farmers move large, wide equipment down the road. It is important to have reflective pieces on all of your equipment so other drivers can see you on the road.
“Pay particular attention to the slow-moving vehicle triangles that you are driving, as well as the equipment you are pulling behind your tractor,” Jones said.
Also, don’t move equipment after dark. It is a hazard to you and other drivers to pull wide equipment at night, especially without proper flashers and reflective triangles.
“We urge farmers to shut the tractors off, go home and move in daylight the next morning because most accidents happen in the dark,” Jones explained.
4. Do Not Push Yourself Too Far
Working long hours on a 95 to 98-degree day is tough. In a normal harvest season, it is not uncommon for farmers to miss meals and work nonstop. Taking care of your health is important and must not be ignored.
“Taking short breaks to refresh yourself and get hydrated can prevent many accidents,” Jones added. “This is heavy equipment that takes a lot of concentration to operate. A lapse in concentration can cause harm to you, someone else or the machine.”
“I’ve been a farmer for years, I already know this!”
Even experienced farmers can make mistakes. To put the importance of tractor safety into perspective, Auburn resident and owner-operator of Deer Park Farms in Street, Maryland, Nathan Barringer shared a story of a close call.
“As a grower, I always keep it in the back of my mind that today could be the day something bad happens,” Barringer said. “As a manager of my family’s operation, I often find myself orientating new workers and monitoring the safety of my employees.”
“This summer, one of our farm’s most seasoned employees forgot about the pinch point that occurs at the linking pin and lost her entire fingernail, and almost lost her finger. The baler had lurched backward while she was hooking up a wagon. The accident could have easily been avoided if she had kept her hands clear of the pinch point.”
Understanding the equipment and knowing all safety hazards is important for anyone operating it. “Most days we wake up and do a job we absolutely love,” Barringer said. “But there will always be that clear and present danger that we must acknowledge and respect.”