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Promoting Safety in Agriculture: Best Practices for Vehicle Operation

Keeping employees safe while they operate heavy machinery during working hours is essential for any farming business to succeed. In the agricultural environment, vehicle accidents often occur — and can have serious outcomes for the people involved.
Here's how to promote safety in agriculture and reduce the number of motor vehicle accident injuries among your workers.

Use Rollover Protection Structures

Tractor rollover incidents are reportedly "the single deadliest type of injury incident on farms in the United States," according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Studies show almost one in every 10 farms has experienced a tractor overturn. Of these, 47 percent did not have rollover protection structures (ROPS) — such as roll bars and seat belts — in place, which help keep the operator safely inside the vehicle during a rollover.
These measures aren't only for the benefit of the workers. OSHA statistics show that operators injured in tractor overturns (without any ROPS) typically lost more than three months of work, while injuries from tractors with roll bars only lost three weeks.

Train Workers in Safe PTO Operation

As Drive Products notes, an agricultural vehicle's power take-off shaft (PTO) sends power from the engine to any secondary machinery, such as a harvester that is attached to a tractor. While the PTO is easy to connect and disconnect, it's a major contributor to problems of safety in agriculture. Workers often get their clothing caught in the shaft and joints, which can cause them to be pulled into the equipment.
Plastic shields can help to protect workers from this risk, as long as they remain in place, but it's important that employees also avoid wearing loose clothing or long hair styles that can become tangled in the machinery. By training workers how to safely operate a PTO, they can understand the dangers and ensure they disengage the components before exiting the vehicle.

Follow Safe ATV Processes

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are popular for work and recreation. However, proper training is essential in order to ensure ATV riders comply with the right protocols, according to the ATV Safety Institute. Recommendations for using ATVs include:

  • An age limit of 12 years for operators, which goes up to 16 years for larger vehicles.
  • The use of appropriate riding gear, such as transport-approved helmets, goggles, gloves, boots, shirts and pants.
  • Familiarization with the owner's manual of each model available for use.
  • Training in how to use any attachments that could affect the stability of the vehicle, such as operating and braking.

ATVs aren't meant for use on public roadways, either. Allowing your staff to do this goes against accepted practices for safety in agriculture.

Adhere to General Vehicle Safety Recommendations

Tractors, harvesters and ATVs aren't the only risks your agricultural workers have to deal with. Other vehicles used in farming and related work include trucks, trailers, cars, ride-on mowers, heavy-duty rollers, sprayers, cutters, shredders and wood chippers, just to name a few.
General vehicle safety protocols require you to train your workers properly and make sure all vehicles they operate have the right protective structures for the type of activity they do. Also, your employees should learn to operate, park and store each item according to its specific requirements. This could include disconnecting any attachments, removing the keys and locking the storage area to prevent unqualified people (or curious children) from getting inside.
Don't let vehicle incidents compromise your workers or your business. Ensure employees are trained in the correct use of all equipment and supplied with all the protective gear they require.