Prevent Tractor Runovers
BIG, FAST AND SOMETIMES DEADLY
Avoid the risk of being run over by one of the farm’s most powerful tools.
Power and size are two features that make farm tractors so valuable – and dangerous.
Modern technology is helping make tractors safer in many ways, but some 60 people still die each year after being run over by a tractor.
Aaron Yoder, Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s (UNMC) College of Public Health, Department of Environmental, Agricultural & Occupational Health, says runover accidents rarely happen in a field. Most often, people are run over by a tractor in their own farm yard.
“This is the time of year farmers work on tractors to prepare them for spring field work,” Yoder says. “That generally happens in an area where other adults and youth are present. When you’re operating a large tractor, there’s not good visibility right around the tractor. Someone – especially a child – could be right next to it and you wouldn’t know it.”
One practice that can help avoid tragic runover accidents is a walk around the tractor just before moving it. This would reveal not only the presence of people in a dangerous area but allow the tractor operator to see any type of obstacle that could be damaged or destroyed if it was run over. Taking those few seconds would also help prevent damage to the tractor if some type of obstacle is in the way.
A quick review of the tractor’s surroundings could also reveal potential trouble from tires frozen to the ground, at risk of becoming stuck, etc. If tires are frozen to the ground, a tractor can flip backwards when power is applied.
A quick inspection of the tractor itself can help spot any tools that were left laying on the tractor or on the ground. If a wagon or other implement is attached to the tractor, checking that the hitch is secure is also a key safety practice.
A walk-around to inspect the tractor itself can also help avoid farm-site accidents. The inspection should include looking for wear on tires or improper inflation. Particular attention should be given to identifying any liquid leaks of oil coolant or fuel. Also check for missing guards and shields.
Having a thorough understanding and knowledge of the tractor manual instructions can help operators recognize any feature or aspect of the tractor that isn’t operating properly. Make sure to review the safety section of the manual a well.
“Before you start the tractor, you want to be sure the tires are properly inflated and free of any defects,” Yoder says. “Check windows for any damage and look at rear-view mirrors to make sure they’re properly adjusted.”
Seat belts should be free of defects or damage and the seat position should accommodate the operator.
“Never start a tractor without being in the operator’s seat,” Yoder says. “And always fasten the safety belt. When you’re sitting inside the cab of a big, modern tractor you don’t expect that there’s anything that can cause you to fall out or be shaken out of that cab. The truth is, there are times when operators are knocked out of the tractor seat by an obstacle like a low-hanging branch. There’s risk of bouncing out of the seat when the tractor hits an obstacle like a tree stump or boulder. You’ll stay safe by doing all you can to prepare for the unexpected.”
Most tractors cannot be started unless you’re in the operator’s seat. However, operators of older tractors sometimes stand beside them when starting them. That practice, especially if they expect the tractor is in neutral but it’s in gear, puts them at great risk for being run over.
Remember to start tractors in a well ventilated areas, especially in winter when tractors are stored inside a building.
“Always take a few seconds to think about safety before starting any task,” Yoder adds. “Think about the hazards and what you can do to reduce potential injuries.”