Tractors are vital pieces of equipment, but as with any vehicle, they come with inherent risks. Without a thorough understanding of proper maintenance and safety procedures, you put yourself at risk of potentially fatal accidents. So here’s what you should never do when operating a tractor — and a few best practices to follow.
The risks of improper tractor operation
According to Utah State University, tractor accidents cause over 9,000 injuries each year. Unfortunately, approximately 800 of these injuries prove fatal, with nearly 50 percent of tractor-related deaths caused by overturns.
Adding to the tragic nature of these statistics is that most of these deaths are preventable. “Accidents do not just ‘happen,'” Utah State University explains, “They are caused, which is why they can be prevented.” So before operating a tractor, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the potential dangers so that you can keep yourself and those around you safe.
What to avoid when operating a tractor
Because almost half of tractor fatalities result from overturning, the most important safety measures will help you reduce this risk. According to Utah State University, this type of accident is generally a result of inattention or driving at high speeds. As such, it’s important to drive slowly and carefully, especially on slopes or uneven terrain. Also, if you plan to drive in an unfamiliar area, don’t go in unprepared — take a few minutes to examine the terrain for ditches or obstructions.
Also, you should never allow anyone to ride with you. It has only one seat, and it’s unsafe for another person to ride on the tractor when it’s in motion. In an accident, the tractor is designed to protect only the person sitting in the operator’s seat.
Additionally, you should avoid wearing loose clothing or accessories while operating a tractor. Items such as scarves or shirttails can become caught within the moving parts, creating a serious safety hazard.
To prevent the vehicle from flipping backward, Utah State University says you should only ever hitch to the drawbar. Although it may be tempting to hitch to the seat bracket or axle, this can cause the tractor to flip backward almost instantaneously, with no time for you to get to safety.
Safety best practices
There are plenty of things to avoid doing when operating a tractor. But what are some things you should be sure to do always? According to FarmProgress, one of the best steps you can take is to only operate a tractor with a rollover protection system, or ROPS. Ideally, the tractor should also have an enclosed cab. This will serve as an extra level of structural protection in the event of a rollover.
Along a similar vein, it’s best practice to remain in the operator’s seat with your seat belt fastened while in motion. Although you might be traveling at seemingly low speeds, the seat belt is as important in a tractor as it is in a car.
Finally, you should always maintain the tractor properly and follow every safety procedure described in the owner’s manual. This will tell you how to mount and dismount safely and how to start the tractor safely. In addition, you should always check the brakes, signals, and other safety devices regularly to ensure they’re functioning properly.
Operating a tractor is inherently risky, but you have the power to avoid dangerous accidents. By taking safety precautions seriously, driving slowly, and paying careful attention to your surroundings at all times, you’ll be able to protect yourself and everyone around you.